UPDATE: Review says deputies didn't violate law in Reginald Arrington case, 'substantial' training issues exist

UPDATE: A review by Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston has concluded that Hamilton County deputies did not violate state criminal laws in an incident that occurred on May 23, 2020, but "substantial" training issues exist within the sheriff's office.

In June 2020, General Pinkston requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to investigate the May incident, in which several Hamilton County deputies arrested Reginald Arrington Jr. for various charges and got into a physical altercation.

General Pinkson, in a letter addressed to Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, said he concluded that the deputies involved didn't violate any Tennessee criminal laws, after a review of the TBI's investigation and analysis from a contracted national use of force expert, Emanuel Kapelsohn.

He added that issues with training exist within the department.

"The investigation and reviews of this case revealed substantial training issues exist within the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office," General Pinkston wrote. "These issues cannot be ignored. I also suggest your department develop a more proactive approach to reviewing and reporting potential excessive use of force incidences. I sincerely hope these issues will be thoroughly examined and corrected for not only the betterment of our county but also your department."


PREVIOUS STORY: The person arrested by Hamilton County deputies on May 23 filed a federal lawsuit against several officials and Hamilton County on Wednesday.

Reginald Arrington, Jr.'s suit named Sheriff Jim Hammond, Sergeant Mickey Rountree, Cpl. Brian Killingsworth, Deputy Nick Dewey, Deputy Todd Cook and Deputy Lori Choate as the defendants, accusing them of unlawful seizure, false arrest, excessive force and other claims.

The suit claims Arrington sustained serious injuries, emotional harm and illness from COVID-19 that stemmed from being held at Silverdale Detention Center.

Arrington is seeking a jury trial and a demand of $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.


PREVIOUS STORY: Five Hamilton County Deputies are still on duty, after a TBI investigation has been launched for allegations of excessive force. The Hamilton County Commissioners addressed the video Wednesday during their regularly scheduled hearing.

District 5 Commissioner Katherlyn Geter was the first to speak on the issue.

"I am deeply troubled and quite frankly mad as hell, about the re-occurring incidents that just keep taking place here in Hamilton County," said Geter. 

Then District 6 Commissioner David Sharpe.

"Can anyone relax while being beaten 25 times by a four pound baton?" asked Sharpe. 

Commissioners Geter, Sharpe and District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey call this video, unacceptable. 

"I'm saying my constituents, they are outraged by what they saw," said Mackey.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has identified the five deputies involved in the May 23rd arrest. Channel 3 has reported on four of the five deputies before. 

Deputy Charlene Choate received a verbal warning in 2018 when she left an officer's name out of a report when he was involved in an alleged drunk driving incident.

Our partner's the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Channel 3 reported about an officer involved shooting in September 2019 killing 71-year-old James Glaze. Sgt. Mickey Rountree, and deputies Nick Dewey, Charlene Choate, and Todd Cook were involved in the fatal shooting, the deputies were cleared of any wrongdoing. 

"You can watch it for yourself, you make the judgment for yourself, you ask yourself is it necessary," said Mackey. 

Channel Three obtained a copy of the department's baton policy. 

In one section it states, "If possible, the other tactical options, as outlined in section 1.3.1, should have been attempted before proceeding with the chemical weapon. Below are some examples in which a chemical weapon may be used:

a. Suspect is told he/she is under arrest and by word or action, the suspect shows no intention of compliance with the verbal command and resists with

the use of physical force; or

b. The chemical weapon may also be utilized on a suspect, previously under control, who suddenly reacts violently and requires immediate attention during

the post-arrest or booking process."

And in another it states:

"The police baton is not to be used, under any circumstances, as punishment or coercion once a subject has been brought under control."

You can read the whole policy below, the police baton policy starts on page three:

 

In a statement Tuesday, Hammond said the deputies were working to gain compliance.

"This is unacceptable I didn't see any efforts to de-escalate, I didn't see any effort to intervene in this video," said Sharpe. 

Commissioner Geter says the video broke her heart.

"Enough is enough, we simply can no longer keep doing this, we cannot breathe," said Geter. 

Channel Three reached out to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office told Channel Three Sheriff Hammond, had no further comments.


PREVIOUS STORY: Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston has requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) investigate an incident that occurred in Hamilton County on May 23, 2020.

On that date, several deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department arrested Reginald Arrington Jr. on the following charges: resisting arrest, simple assault on police, criminal impersonation, a pedestrian in the roadway, and four counts of aggravated assault on police.

During the arrest process, the officers and Arrington got into a physical altercation.

General Pinkston said the bodycam and dashcam footage from the officers caused enough concern to warrant an investigation. "I have not made a final determination on anything related to this case," said General Pinkston, "but what I saw in the videos was troubling."

"That's why I'm requesting a thorough investigation to ascertain whether or not excessive force was used in this incident," Pinkston continued.

The officers involved in this incident are white. Mr. Arrington, who is from Ohio, is African American. General Pinkston added that all of the charges against Arrington were dropped on Tuesday.

General Pinkston has also referred the matter to the Department of Justice for possible investigation and notified the general counsel for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. 

On Tuesday evening, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond released a statement accusing General Pinkston of making a hasty decision in dismissing Arrington's charges. 

Sheriff Hammond says General Pinkston's decision to release the video will also "improperly influence and sensationalize the events of this incident to the public without allowing the legal process to effectively take place."

The following is the entire statement from Sheriff Jim Hammond:

“Earlier this morning, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neil Pinkston released a video involving my deputies and Reginald Arrington, Jr., The video depicts my deputies’ actions in response to Arrington’s resisting arrest. By releasing this video, along with dismissing Arrington’s charges, General Pinkston essentially removed my deputies’ ability to offer direct testimony under oath pertaining to their actions and their training utilized in this incident.

By hastily dismissing charges and releasing this video without allowing a legal, preliminary probable cause hearing to take place, I feel General Pinkston’s actions will improperly influence and sensationalize the events of this incident to the public without allowing the legal process to effectively take place. Effectively, what General Pinkston has chosen to do is indict my deputies in the court of public opinion prior to facts being presented in a court of law.

Many of our citizens will view this video of Arrington’s resisting lawful arrest and may share concerns over how my deputies responded. Upon arrest, Arrington became combative at which time my deputies utilized compliance techniques, including the use of batons to eventually gain compliance. I ask our community to not rush to judgment based on the contents of the video, but allow for the investigation to take place at which time the actions of both my deputies and those of Arrington will be thoroughly reviewed. The dash cam video in question was taken internally by our personnel at the scene.

Based upon preliminary review of the video, I am not placing any of the deputies involved in this incident on administrative leave. However, to ensure this event is thoroughly reviewed, I have ordered an Administrative Review to be conducted to ensure Arrington’s treatment was justified and our policies and procedures were followed.

We are a nation of law and order and in order to remain so, it is imperative we allow and encourage the legal process to take place. This includes allowing for preliminary probable cause hearings to take place so all sides can be heard. As always, we welcome an outside review and will cooperate and offer any evidence necessary to seek a legal and appropriate resolution.

As sheriff, it has always been my intention that this agency stand firm and remain transparent even in the harshest light of public scrutiny. However, I cannot sit back and remain idle while my deputies have their right to be heard infringed upon.” - Jim Hammond, Sheriff

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