Lack of video proof may have spared fired CPD officer - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Lack of video proof may have spared fired CPD officer from discipline earlier

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Franklin's Richard McPeek claims he suffered more than the facial scrapes his mug shot reveals when then-Chattanooga Police Ofc. Sean Emmer arrested him for public intoxication outside the Southern Comfort Bar June 2.

His complaint went to Internal Affairs. Personnel records indicate Emmer had at least one other claim of Excessive Force, filed in 2010. Investigators concluded it was 'unfounded.'

In concluding its probe of McPeek's claim August 31, Capt. Susan Blaine questioned why Emmer "felt it necessary to hit McPeek twice in the face."  

Nonetheless, she recommended his claim of excessive force be 'Not Sustained' citing McPeek's recollection of events as "very vague due to his very intoxicated condition" and a lack of "video or outside witnesses to this incident."

Less than two weeks after his encounter with McPeek, Emmer and fellow Ofc. Adam Cooley would answer the call that cost them their jobs; the arrest of Adam Tatum, an inmate at the 'Residential Re-Entry Center" that Chattanooga's branch of the Salvation Army operated for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

"There are cameras spread throughout the facility," Salvation Army spokesman Gordon Hall told Channel 3 last Thursday.

Tatum's attorney, Robin Flores, believes that the video those cameras collected proves more of Emmer's and Cooley's guilt.
"I'd love to see it. I'm sure my client would love to see it," Flores says. "But they (Chattanooga Police and the Bureau of Prisons) won't let me see it until they close the investigation."

For now, Flores has only Tatum's medical records and the 'Incident Narrative' police filed after Tatum's arrest.

The Narrative alleges that Tatum had threatened a center worker with a knife, tried to kick in a door, and "came at" Emmer and another officer "in an aggressive manner" when police were dispatched to the center June 14.

Police charged Tatum with one count of aggravated assault, four counts of simple assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and possession of marijuana.

Tatum already had been arrested more than two dozen times in the past 17 years. He'd pleaded guilty to charges ranging from assault, to escape, to possession of crack cocaine.

He cut a plea deal, earning one day short of a full-year sentence for one assault charge.

Flores wants the deal thrown out.

"The state did not provide him (Tatum) with the entirety of the video evidence," Flores says. "Either prosecutors knew it was there, and didn't show it. Or police didn't give the DA all of it."

Flores also is preparing a federal lawsuit, alleging that Emmer, Cooley and Chattanooga Police violated Tatum's Fourth Amendment rights to be secured from 'unreasonable searches and seizures.'

"But I can't do any of it until I see the video," Flores says.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press has quoted Police Chief Bobby Dodd as saying that the totality of evidence against Emmer and Cooley left him no choice but to fire both officers.

Through Public Information Officer Nathan Hartwig, Chief Dodd has declined Channel 3's request for interviews or elaboration, until Internal Affairs completes its investigation of a third officer said to have knowledge of the incident.  

Police have not identified the officer. But the Incident Narrative indicates at least three officers besides Emmer and Cooley responded to the disturbance June 14. 

"An officer has a duty to protect, even if it's from fellow officers," Flores says. "If those other officers were there and stood around and watched, that's just as if they were breaking his legs. They'd better expect to be defendants."

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