Three Cheatham County Sheriff’s deputies have been placed on administrative leave after a Pegram teen filed suit in federal court accusing them of using excessive force while he was being held at Cheatham County Jail.
Jordan Elias Norris, 19, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court accusing the deputies of deprivation of civil rights, citing the use of excessive force and failure to protect after he was repeatedly stunned with Tasers in the jail in November 2016.
He suffered more than 40 pairs of Taser burns, many of which are unaccounted for by authorities, the lawsuit states.
Norris was arrested Nov. 3, 2016 and charged with felony manufacturing/possession of marijuana for resale, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft under $500 and five counts of possession of a prohibited weapon.
He was later charged with felony vandalism of over $1,000 and simple assault Nov. 7 while still incarcerated.
Norris was originally suspected of stealing a semi-automatic rifle, and Sheriff’s deputies received information he was going to use the weapon on any law enforcement who tried to arrest him, according to Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove.
Norris was kept in the booking cell for several days for behavioral issues, explained Breedlove.
During Norris’ time in the jail, he was stunned several times, including while restrained, according to the lawsuit.
Many of the incidents were captured on video, including by cameras on the Tasers themselves.
Breedlove released a statement Friday morning saying that he was not presented with all of the video footage at the initial briefing on the situation.
After seeing media reports and videos not previously viewed, Breedlove said he immediately directed supervisors to examine the Sheriff’s Office’s current Use of Force policy. He also contacted District Attorney General Ray Crouch Jr. to request an independent investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“As Sheriff, I want our citizens to know that any inappropriate behavior that may have violated an individual’s rights will not be tolerated.
I have placed the employees involved on administrative leave while the investigation is conducted,” he said in the statement. “We will work closely and cooperatively with the TBI and District Attorney’s Office to ensure all facts are provided and all angles of this incident are thoroughly investigated.”
According to Use of Force Reports filed by correction deputies, while in booking at 6:55 p.m. Nov. 5, Norris was stunned after officers believed he was going to have a physical altercation with another inmate in a cell. Deputies say Norris resisted efforts to cuff him, which caused him to be stunned and taken to a restraint chair.
Authorities say the deputies stunned Norris again for resisting them as they attempted to place him in the restraint chair,
During a nearly three-hour stint in the restraint chair, authorities reported Norris as being “very combative” and “combative,” yelling things about wanting to kill himself and asking to be shot, according to the restraint chair log from the Sheriff’s Office.
At 10:20 p.m., deputies tried to move Norris from the booking restraint chair to the jail transport vehicle so that he could be taken to the hospital. Authorities say they had to stun Norris multiple times in a bid to gain compliance, according to a second Use of Force Report.
In a third Use of Force Report from that evening, Norris was stunned again in another attempt to move him from the restraint chair to the transport vehicle at 10:35 p.m. Authorities say Norris was drive-stunned for “approximately one second on the calf” to get him into the car so that he could be transported to Centennial Medical Center in Ashland City.
Drive-stunning involves holding the Taser against the target without firing the projectiles, so as to cause pain without being incapacitating.
The federal lawsuit is focused on the stuns that were given during the period when Norris was restrained.
The lawsuit claims that one of the deputies’ repeated and prolonged use of the Taser against Norris while he “was restrained and suffering a mental health episode was objectively unreasonable, unnecessary, excessive, and without a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”
It further states that while Norris was restrained, a deputy “shocked Plaintiff Norris with a Taser device four times totaling approximately fifty seconds on his stomach and legs.”
The suit goes on to claim that while stunning Norris, the deputy stated, “I’ll keep on doing that until I run out of batteries.”
The lawsuit accuses the deputy of acting in a “sadistic and malicious nature in repeatedly tasing Plaintiff Norris, such that the force was unreasonable.”
According to the lawsuit, the deputy told Norris to “stop resisting,” despite the fact that he was still stunning Norris, who was restrained in the chair.
The suit claims that the other two deputies were observing this and did nothing to stop it.
When Norris bonded out of jail on Nov. 16, he had approximately 40 pairs of taser burns throughout his body, according to the suit.
“Most of the taser burns sustained by Plaintiff Norris are not accounted for by the Use of Force Reports and video clips received from the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office, raising further questions and creating a reasonable belief that Plaintiff Norris was also repeatedly tased on other occasions without proper justification,” said the suit.