BLOODY CHATTANOOA: THE BODYCOUNT

There is a sickness in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the metropolitan city and county police departments. The disease of racism and blood lust is reflected here when police are blatantly murdering black and poor folks in what seems be an unchecked reign of terror. From 1978 to 2009 police in the area fatally shot, choked, run over, beat, and otherwise killed 63 persons in custody. In addition, a number of others have died as a result of police brutality or criminal negligence by policemen or jail guards since 1978. Most of these persons were in the custody of the Chattanooga Police Department, except where otherwise indicated.

Even though all of these persons died under questionable circumstances while in the custody of cops, there has never an inquest, grand jury hearing, or independent investigation of most of these cases. There have only been one criminal trial, with the officer being acquitted. These case have all been covered-up.

We remember those we have lost to police violence

1. William R. Hendrix, 55, (white) died February 25, 1978.  Hendrix died in the city jail after being arrested on public drunkenness charge. The cops incredibly claimed that he wasn’t beaten, that he “just fell backwards and hit the concrete” all on his own.  Although Hendrix was not knocked unconscious by the fall, he did receive a deep cut on the back of the head.  Taken to Erlanger Hospital treatment, he was attended by Dr. Luu Dang, who examined him and ordered skull X-rays.  Dr. Dang sutured his lacerations, but claimed he couldn’t find any skull fractures, so he released Hendrix back to the jail.  Dr. Dang did, however, give the transporting officer a head injury sheet, which explained symptoms or signs to look for if his condition worsened, and which mandated strict instructions to observe the patient for once every hour over a 72 hour period, and also gave him oral medication for the man.  However, when he got back to the jail Hendrix was given neither medication or any special precautions. As a result he died from his skull injury.  His family sued the city, but the case was dismissed by a local court, who claim the cops had “immunity”.

2. Oscar Owens, 33, (Black) died June 9, 1981.  Owens died at the Hamilton County Penal Farm after being denied medical treatment by prison guards who claimed that he was “faking it”.  He was subsequently placed in the “hot box”, an unventilated punishment cell where the Summer heat rose over 110 degrees, so that his “moaning and groaning” would not bother the guards or other inmates.  He died from asphyxiation and dehydration of bodily fluids, according to the Coroner’s office.  No guard was charged with criminal negligence, although the “box” was later ruled by a state court to be “cruel and unusual punishment” in an unrelated lawsuit, and outlawed.

3.  Thomas David Smith, 28, (Black) died November 14, 1981.  After a party at the family home, Smith allegedly became intoxicated, “cussed everybody out”, and his mother called police.  Cops arrived on a “disorder call”, but found Smith out cold on his bed.  An officer struck and violently shook Smith to wake him up, and according to the cops, Smith “produced a knife”, and was shot in his chest several times with a .357 magnum revolver by a cop, when he refused an order to drop the knife.  However, his mother and family accuse the cops of murder, and later after city police Commissioner Tom Kennedy reinstates the cops, says that there was a conspiracy to kill Smith because he was a witness in a pending arson- for-hire case, involving his brother and a city fireman, and that he was killed to shut him up. His family later filed a $1 million lawsuit against the city and the cops for the unlawful killing of the man, but it was summarily

4.   John Howard Ray, 32, (Black) died November 14, 1982.   Ray was murdered by city cops during a domestic disturbance call.  Cops claimed the man produced a steak knife, and refused to put it down when ordered.  He was shot and killed by bullets fired from a gun by a CPD officer in the chest, stomach and back of the head.  The family charged the cops, in an internal affairs complaint and subsequent lawsuit, with using unnecessary force, and that there was no order to drop the knife before the shooting.

5. Darryl Melvin, 28, (Black) died November 6, 1982.  Melvin was shot both in the back and chest by a CPD officer answering a “burglary” call.  The cop claimed that Melvin produced a tire-iron and “threatened” him with it, though none was produced into evidence.  His family and the black community charged excessive use of force by the CPD officer, saying the cop was “triggerhappy”, and cited the evidence of the very next night when the same cop was involved in another shooting incident, wherein he shot at an unarmed black woman, missing her by inches.

6. Adrian Carter, 19, (Black) died December 21, 1982.  Carter was shot in the back after a fusillade of shots from a .357 magnum by a CPD officer.  Police claimed he was seen leaving the scene of a burglary carrying “something” they claimed to believe was a gun, that turned out to be a blue washcloth.  His case set off an uproar in the black community.  The black community groups charged a “quick trigger” by cops when dealing with black suspects, and his family filed a $3 million dollar lawsuit against the city and the cops for civil rights violations and unlawfully taking the life of the black youth. After years of litigation, the case was dismissed. Case had significant impact on outlawing the fleeing felon law in a case decided on by U.S. Supreme Court.

7.   John Perry, 60, (Black) died February 20, 1983.  Perry was a victim of constant harassment because he wouldn’t pay the cops off for a tavern he ran. Cops came to his home on the day of his death, and brutally beat him.  Then they hauled him off to jail, carrying him out the door, as he could not walk under his own power.  He was taken to jail, where he was declared “dead on arrival.”  His wife charged he was beaten to death.  Police inexplicably claim he “just fell over and hit his head on the bathroom door,” though he bore the marks of a brutal beating all over his body.

8. Wadie E. Suttles, 66, (Black) died December 2, 1983.  Suttles was arrested on November 25, 1983 for “disorderly conduct” after he was found sleeping in his car.  After a verbal altercation with the arresting officer, Isaac Cooper, he was pushed and struck several times, and dragged off to jail.  He was beaten several times in the jail by racist jailers, a number of times with a “slapstick” and a flashlight. (One of the jailers later bragged to a white inmate that, “that old man had a hard head…he bent my slapstick”).  He was forcibly grabbed and removed from his cell and taken to a hospital, and then thrown into an isolation cell.

Later, Suttles was beaten again in the isolation cell and killed. Cops and the city government attempted to cover-up the crime by lying about the cause of death, withholding and destroying evidence, and falsifying reports.

Officials gave 4 scenarios for his death:  Heart attack:  ramming his head into the bars; diving or falling from his bunk; and finally that an inmate killed him, but they cannot tell how, why, or who.  Died December 2,1983—pronounced dead December 6, 1983.  This case has been taken to the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Rights and was talked about about the World Conference Against Racism in South Africa in September 2001, as an example of the kinds of human rights violations that occur in this country on a consistent basis without just resolution. The case created an outrage in the black community, leading to numerous protest rallies and demonstrations.  The family filed a $3 million civil rights lawsuit, but the case was rigged and the city prevailed.

9. Leon Shipley, 40. (1983). White. Shot by city policemen in a case of unjustified use of deadly force.

10.   Mark Lebron Barnes, 24.  White. Shot by police officer after an argument.    (April 12, 1984).

11. George Lee Brown, 33, (Black) died May 30, 1986.  Mr. Brown was killed by several CPD officers and a white civilian.  Witnesses saw Mr. Brown, handcuffed and chained, being beaten by cops.  A taped conversation with such an eyewitness revealed that Mr. Brown begged for his life.  Autopsy reports indicated that Mr. Brown’s head alone contained 11 bruises, and that there was not one square inch of his body that did not contain a bruise or scratch (which meant a severe beating while he was alive).  Even the soles of his feet were bruised! A strange contusion beginning at the mid-torso area and wrapping around his body, ending in the mid-¬back area, indicated a rubber hose beating. This man was murdered, and all witnesses and the family were intimidated into silence by the cops.

12. Clairborn William Owens, (Black) 33, died December 24, 1986.

Owens was arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” on Christmas Eve, and was found hanging by his neck in the holding cell of Chattanooga City Jail that same day.  Police claim he killed himself using his blue jeans as a noose, but informants at the jail claim the man had been beaten and threatened by jail guards in the hours before his death.  In fact, the autopsy report indicated Mr. Owens suffered a crushed windpipe, fractured skull, broken collarbone and contusions and lacerations on his face, neck and body.  Mr. Owens was murdered, and his family even hired a private detective, but due to the cover-up by authorities in deaths of this type in Chattanooga, the truth has never come out

13. Rosalyn Bradford, 23, (Black) died January 31, 1987.  Arrested on December 17, 1987.  Arrested on December 17, 1986, charged wit the murder of her boyfriend.  MS.  Bradford was being held at the County Penal Farm, and she died after suffering a ruptured fallopian tube, brought on by a tubal pregnancy. The pregnancy was not discovered, because due to jailer incompetence, MS.  Bradford did not receive a medical examination upon her entrance to the penal farm.  She suffered excruciating pain for more than 36 hours, all the while begging for help before she died.  One of the jailers told an investigating committee that he was going to see about her, but not until “after I finished my soup”.  At 4:30 am on January 31, 1987, Ms. Bradford, hemorrhaging through her ears and nose, died on the cold jail floor, still not having received any treatment.  Because of corruption and payoffs to Hamilton County officials by the private company which runs the prison, no charges of criminal negligence were ever filed against the guards at the prison farm, although the case created an uproar in the black community and a lawsuit was filed by the family for several million dollars.

14. Walter McPhearson, 54, (Black) died February 1, 1987.  McPhearson was arrested after being held captive in his own home more than 2-½ hours by the Chattanooga police, supposedly for “questioning”, but the man was brutally beaten.  His family was not allowed to enter the home during this time.  He was finally arrested, but on what charges is still not clear to this day.  He was dragged to a police car, and his eyes and face clearly bore marks of a severe beating.  His family was told to meet him at the jail, where he could be bailed out.  However, when Mrs. McPhearson arrived at the jail, she was told by the cops to meet them at the hospital.  And when she arrived there, 15 minutes later, she was told that her husband was dead and to claim the body from the mortuary.  She never got a chance to talk to him before he died, and was never given a valid reason for his death.  The cops claim he died of a “heart attack”, but in fact he was murdered, and the case is another one of a long line being covered up by local authorities.

15. Bennie Silvers, 23, died July 14, 1987.  Silvers was arrested and shot dead by cops while sitting in a police car.  Cops claimed it was a “suicide”, but Silvers’ hands were handcuffed behind his back, he had been searched twice, and the gun used to shoot him was 8 inches long and wrapped in a bag and linseed paper, as is done in the police property room.  Nevertheless, the cops claimed that Silvers somehow pulled the gun from his  groin and shot himself “accidentally” in the abdomen.  They even claim his last words were “I shot myself’, which is total nonsense. This    man was murdered, and community protests erupted around the case, and his family filed a lawsuit, which was rigged and thrown out of court.

16. Gerald Charles Rogge, 32, died December 20, 1988.  When Rogge, a school teacher driving home for the holidays from Florida to Wisconsin, had a car wreck on the interstate highway which runs through Chattanooga, he was arrested by county police and charged with DUI.  However, when he was placed in the city jail to await court action, he was denied the right to call his family or his attorney, and was then beaten and killed by jailers in a fashion very similar to the Wadie Suttles case in 1983.  The jailers hated Rogge, who was white, because of his “Yankee ways”, and when he kept demanding his right to make phone calls, he was beaten up.  Then after his hemorrhaging and dying from the beatings, the cops and medical examiner falsely claimed that he died from a pre-existing “blood clot.”  However, his family contested this phony claim, and his family physician said he had been in good health, and was murdered by the Chattanooga cops.  They filed a $4 million lawsuit in 1989, which was settled for an undisclosed sum.

17.  Ricky Thompson, 26, died March 11, 1989.  Thompson was a Cleveland, Tennessee resident allegedly suspected by the cops of narcotics peddling.  When cops approached him, he reportedly fled, but was subsequently arrested, knocked unconscious, and then thrown into the Chattanooga Creek from a railroad trestle 30 feet above, where he drowned.  Cops claimed that he committed “suicide” by jumping into the creek himself, while trying to evade arrest, but witnesses saw the man being beaten by cops, who hurled him into the creek with his hands cuffed behind his back.  Their story “doesn’t hold water”, this man was murdered.

18.  Robert Wayne McDade, 22.  (White).  Man hanged in jail cell. (February 24, 1990)

19.  James Guffey.  17. (White).  Killed by Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy in high speed chase. (1990)

20.  Catherine Forrester, 17. (White).  Killed by Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy in high speed chase. (1990)

21.   Becky Henson.  (White).  Killed by Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy in high speed chase. (1990)

22. Michael Lebron Earls, 35, December 25, 1990.  Earls was shot and killed by a CPD cop for allegedly “stealing cigarettes” from a convenience store.  This was a bogus charge, which at most should have resulted in the serving of a misdemeanor citation, if anything.  But the cop came out and beat and tried to handcuff the man, who turned to flee in his truck, and was shot and killed after several wild shots were fired by the killer cop.  After black community protest, this killer cop was fired, but was not prosecuted for murder as demanded by the NAACP and other black community groups.

23.  Richard Christensen Elmes, 22. (White).  Beaten to death by police June 9, 1990

24.  Hayden Price, 42, died January 15, 1991.  Price was accosted by cops who found him asleep at the wheel of his parked car outside his motel room. They attacked and hit the man, who fought back, and they then sprayed him with “Pepper Mace”, which the police department had just authorized use of, and according to cops this “took his breath away”.  He was then thrown into a paddy wagon, and unbelievably the cops claim that only after arriving at police HQ that it was discovered that the man was dead.  However, according to the witnesses who saw the incident, the cops choked the man to death with an “L.A.P.D style choke-hold”, and had to know he was dead at the scene, since he was not breathing and his body was badly discolored from the strangulation. His family agreed with the eyewitnesses, and sued the city for $780,000 for using unnecessary force on Mr. Price and violating his civil rights.

25.   Larry Powell, 28, February 5, 1993. Arrested by Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies for alleged drunken driving (tests later showed he was legally sober), Powell was beaten and killed by eight white cops, who all claimed later that he “resisted arrest.” But since the cops admit he was already cuffed on his legs and wrists, it was clear that he was not fighting at all. The cops took this occasion to work him over, and literally beat and choked him to death. This case caused massive demonstrations in the community and demands for criminal prosecution of the cops. The grand jury hurriedly convened to hear the case, but found the cops without fault for the death.

26.  Tony Randall Swain, 34.  (Black).  Shot by police (1992).

27.  Clarence B. Hatcher.  64.  (Black).  Shot by police sniper at nursing home, in true cowboy-like “shoot first, ask questions later” fashion.  (September 15, 1992).

28.  Crawford Elmo Watkins.  57.  (White).  Shot at 37 times by police. Killed when hit 16 times.  (June 5, 1994)

29.   Bennie Lewis, 85.  (Black).  Shot by CPD officer, who repeatedly emptied a six-shot revolver into Mr. Lewis’s body.  The body contained 22 bullet wounds.  (March 1996).

30.  Tabron Tyrone Ball.  22. (Black). Killed while being chased onto highway by police.  (September 26, 1994)

31.  Doris M. Severs, 59. (White).  Run over by police cruiser in grocery store

32.  Daniel Pierce.  Allegedly killed while being chased by police onto highway. (October 16, 1997)

33.  William H. Long.  78.  Killed by police car hitting him in parking log. (November 13, 1997)

34.  George Weathers, Shot by police on January 21, 1994.

35.  John Emmons. Shot 19 times by CPD Officers, who fired 43 times (February 28, 1997)

36.   Montrail Collins.  22.  (Black).  Shot 17 times by CPD on April 28, 1998 outside his house.  (Account listed in Stolen Lives.)

36.  Kevin McCullough.  25.  (Black).  Shot at work by CPD on May 6, 1998, when cops say he brandished work tool as weapon.  (Account listed in Stolen Lives magazine.)

37.  James Lebron Hurt.  Died from medical neglect at Corrections Corporation of America, a prison-for-profit institution (formerly known as the Hamilton County Workhouse).  CCA is a hugely lucrative stock-market prison in which some of our best known politicians have investments.

38.  Samuel Petty.  22.  (Black) Shot by CPD Officer. (October 28, 1999)

39.  Unidentified Black man thrown from freeway overpass on I-24 West. Impaled by his own spinal cord Found in handcuffs.   Last seen being chased by seven CPD officers. Incident happened during L. T. Tom Kennedy’s reign as Commissioner of Fire and Police.  (1987)

40.  Josh Hurd, 17. (White).  Found hanging from a tree near his grandparents’ home, November 3, 1999.  Known to have been harassed by Rhea County Juvenile Probation Officers, Gracie Dial and Glen Eldridge.

41.  Unidentified Nigerian National (Black).  Thrown form the same freeway overpass as above. (1995)

42.  Richard Hatcher.  Black, 45. Died April 1, 2000.  Man was under the influence of drugs.  After an altercation with his family, he was transported to the hospital.  Ambulance drivers refused to transport him unless he was accompanied by a police officer.  He died enroute to the hospital.  Awaiting autopsy report.  Still awaiting autopsy report (9/09)

43.  Samuel A. Held. 29. (White).  Killed April 10, 2000.  Parked near a storage place on Airport Road with a girl.  Police accused him of “trying to rob” the place. After being approached by two policemen on the DUI Task Force, he backed up his truck.  The police began shooting.  They  used 49 bullets (each cop reloaded). Mr. Held’s girlfriend, Paula Kilgore, was arrested and charged with “fleeing from police.”for 6 hours, feeding him beer.  When he made a sudden body movement, they shot him.

44.  James Harold Brooks, 44.  (White).  Shot and killed by SWAT team December 15, 2000.  Reported to police on a domestic violence charge.  Mr. Brooms was in his own home.  No one was being held hostage, and relatives were not in the immediate vicinity of the shooting.  Reports are that the SWAT team stayed with Mr. Brooks feeding him beer, when he made a sudden body movement, they shot him.

45.  Leonard Raydale Pam, 17.  (Black).  Transferred from Chattanooga Juvenile Detention Center under questionable circumstances.  Found hanging in the Rhea County Juvenile Detention Center 7 days later.  He had been warned,  “do what the Probation Officers tell you.”  Rhea County is the same place where Josh Hurd (also 17) was found hanging from a tree in his Grandparents yard.  The stretch of highway leading to Rhea County is also where 8 Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies choked Larry Powell to death.  In an incredible move, Rhea County Officials used Mr. Pam’s death to appeal to the federal government for funds to build a new detention center.

46.  Torris Harris, 21. (Black).  Killed December 27, 2001, in a case of driving while black.  Mr. Harris was stopped and questioned by members of the Chattanooga Police Department about the car he was driving. After several minutes, he began to walk away from the car.  Police began to wrestle with him, sprayed him with pepper spray.  At some point, a neighbor joined in the scuffle—“to help the police”—engaging in lynch mob action at the scene.  Mr. Harris died that day.  It was later discovered the car he was driving belonged to his mother and he had her permission to use it. Mr. Harris died of an unlawful chokehold administered by the CPD, one of whom was also involved in the killing of Larry Powell.

46.  UTC Student—Ran over and killed by an out-of-control cop in a police cruiser.

47.  John Eric Henderson.  32. (Black).  Shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.  Mr. Henderson had no weapon.   Cop who shot Mr. Henderson was 4 days on the job alone, and showed that he was trained to be afraid of Black men.

48.  Brandon Antonio Miller.  29.  (Black).  Died June 27, 2003.  He was driving up Highway 64 when Bradley County Officers, Shane McKee and David Harper pulled him over.  They said he was speeding, however, there was no indication that Mr. Miller was speeding.  He cooperated fully with the instructions the officers were giving him (showing his license, registration, and insurance). After they discovered that he had no record or outstanding warrants, they tried to wrestle him to the ground.  Fearing for his life, Mr. Miller ran. He then climbed back into the truck which was stopped.  One of the officers sprayed mace into his face, and the other officer jumped onto the truck and shot through the windshield and door several times.  Some of those bullets killed Mr. Miller.  (Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee).

49.  Lester Vaughn Prater.  35. (Black).  Died January 2, 2004.  Mr. Prater was running down Central Avenue disrobed.  Neighbors called police.  When police arrived, instead of ascertaining Mr. Prater’s physical and psychological condition, they proceeded to beat, stomp, kick, and choke the man.  His body contained 6 broken ribs, a broken arm, huge numbers of lacerations and bruises. He died of asphyxiation caused by the combined weight of 6 police officers sitting on him and the general beating he received.

50.  Ricky Lee Jones, 22.  (White).  Found dead in his cell at the Hamilton County Jail on July 25, 2004.  Mr. Jones had been taken to the hospital on three separate occasions during his 10-day stay in the jail.  The latest information is that the police are awaiting his autopsy.

51.  Michael Kyle. 48. White.  Shot September 28, 2004 by the U. S. Marshals. Mr. Kyle was on probation for violation of having toxic paint in his business. The nature of his violation is unknown.  He claimed he had been harassed by members of the correctional system. The Marshals say he was wanted on a violation of his probation.   The story is very unclear.  Mr. Kyle apparently feared for his life and believed he could get no relief from any agency designed to hear his complaints.  He took a video tape to WDEF Channel 12 on Friday, September 25, 2004.  On September 28, 2004, his video tape became a prophecy fulfilled. He was shot to death.

52.  James “Jimmy” Lindsay.  57.  (White).  Shot by members of the SWAT team, September 29, 2004.  Mr. Lindsay had been accused of shooting his 74-year-old mother.  In an after dark  standoff, the SWAT team shot Mr. Lindsay dead rather than spend the time and effort in talking him out of the house.

53.  James F. Taylor.  52. (Black).  Arrested in October 2004 after a beating by Chattanooga Police.  Transported to Erlanger Hospital.  Transferred by Erlanger officials to Moccasin Bend Mental Hospital.  Transferred back to Erlanger where he was pronounced dead.

54.  Randy Crisp, 43, died March 14, 2009 after fatal shooting  by officers in Meigs County, TN.

55.  John Curtis Coates, 34, died June 24, 2009 shot by Walker County deputy in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA.

56.  Alonzo O’Kelly.  15.  (Black).  Shot in the back by a Chattanooga Housing Authority Police.  Police had ordered Mr.  O’Kelly to drop his weapon and, according to witnesses, Mr. O’Kelly dropped the gun and began to run away. He was shot in the back.  (July 1, 2009)

57. Alonzo Heyward.  32. (Black). Mr. Heyward was carrying a gun threatening to shoot himself.  He was first at McDonald’s Restaurant on Rossville Boulevard.  The CPD dispatched 6 white policemen. They initially walked Mr. Heyward several blocks back to his home.  When he reached his home, the officers tasered him.  When Mr. Heyward fell as he was being tasered, the cops began shooting him.  They each reloaded him and had spent between 59- 74 (Mr. Heyward’s father counted 97 bullet markers), rounds to shoot one man.   Autopsy reports say that Mr. Heyward was shot 43 times with 59 bullets. We understand that the 6 white policemen began to laugh and congratulate each other as Mr. Heyward died.  (July 18, 2009)

58.  Richard LaMark Dunn, shot by East Ridge, TN. Officers twice in the back, after they claim that he tried to run over them with an automobile. This is clearly a case of police murder.

59.  Jamal Spralling, 22, (race unknown), died April 2, 2010 in the Hamilton County Jail. Circumstances of death unknown. Corrections officers called 911 and told dispatchers that CPR was being performed. Family was notified. Information sketchy.

60.   William Kay, 29. (race not specified).  Supposedly shot himself in the head during an attack by SWAT team. September 8, 2010.

61.   Jason Logon, 30, (race unspecified).  Allegedly hanged himself with a nondestructible blanket in Hamilton County Jail. May 7, 2011. Cops say another inmate witnessed the hanging, but was so mentally incompetent that he could not speak about what he witnessed. Question: How did this very incompetent mentally ill man tell the cops what he saw?

62.   Armetta Foster (Black).  30 year old woman, walking along the freeway with her two children, ages 10and 6, was shot by a Bradley County cop 7 or 8 times. According to the autopsy report, the cop’s bullets entered her thigh, buttocks, vagina, and kidney allfrom the left side. Family members believed she suffered a mental breakdown. She needed medical care rather than summary  execution.

63. Phillip Dale Ellis, 48.  Died October 8, 2012.  Cause of death, undetermined (at this time).  Inmate at Hamilton County Jail. Arrested September 20, 2012.  SWAT team found 14 marijuana plants, grow lights, and, timers, vents, and assorted power supplies.

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