Metro Nashville is set to settle an excessive use-of-force lawsuit against the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department for $110,000.00, with an additional $50,000.00 allotted for attorney fees. The suit arises from five years ago today when Timothy Warren was arrested on New Year’s Eve, and then booked into the Davidson County Jail just after 1 a.m., and punched in the face during the booking process, knocked to the ground, his body repeatedly slammed onto the floor, resulting in multiple physical injuries, including a broken fibula, a right ankle fracture, ankle dislocation, and facial lacerations.
A review of the video appears to show that Warren had consented to a pat-down, and then was in conversation with a correctional officer standing nearby during the pat-down. Warren was told to sit down, and when he was slow to comply, and still walking toward the chair to sit in, he turned around toward correctional officer Snipes, who then punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Officer Williams then placed her knee on his head, holding him to the floor, while he was being sprayed with a chemical spray to his face. At the same time, another officer grabbed Warren’s legs and repeatedly slammed them to the ground, fracturing and dislocating his ankle.
Warner was then locked in a ‘seclusion cell’ and denied medical treatment for nearly two hours. Staff then determined Warren had injuries requiring medical attention at a hospital and caused him to be transported for treatment. It was determined that Warren had sustained multiple injuries, including a broken fibula, a right ankle fracture, ankle dislocation, and facial lacerations. Warren ultimately required and underwent surgery on his fractured ankle.
The entire event was captured on video. Later that morning, Snipes and Hayes filed Disciplinary Incident Reports stating that Warren sustained his ankle injury before he was punched in the face by Snipes. On January 2, 2014, Sergeant Scott Satterlee filed a Use of Force Report (UFR) regarding the incident. The UFR noted that Warren “possibly injured his ankle as he walked into intake.” Lieutenant William Gise commented on the report: “The amount of force used does appear to be inappropriate; however it was the officer’s immediate reaction to the incident. The inmate’s ankle appears to be broken during the [use of force] when the inmate rolls his ankle and falls. [Use of force] complies with DCSO policies; however the inmate should have been placed in cuffs when he started threatening staff. This has been addressed with staff.”
On January 3, 2014, Warren filed an inmate grievance form to report the incident. On January 7, 2014, an investigating officer who reviewed the grievance – the same Lieutenant Gise – concluded that the Individual Defendants’ actions “were within policy” and found the complaint “unsubstantiated”.
Nine months later, on October 23, 2014, Satterlee’s UFR was amended with the following “administrative disposition” by Chief of Security Jamie Johnson: “This [use of force] does not appear to be in compliance with Davidson County Sheriff’s Office policy or procedure. This needs to be reviewed by HR”. Ultimately, after further review of the entire incident, Snipes was suspended from work for use of excessive force against Warren.
Mr. Warren brought claims against Metro for deliberate indifference to the use of force by the corrections officers and a claim of inadequate training of these officers. After an investigation, two of the corrections officers were issued charge letters for improper use of force and appeared before a disciplinary board. During the disciplinary hearing, the corrections officer who initially punched Mr. Warren acknowledged that he was trained to not strike in the face, that what he did was wrong, and that he overreacted. That officer was given a five-day suspension. However, a copy of the disciplinary finding letter was not given to the employee within 10 days of its entry as required by Civil Service Rule 6.6. As a result, the suspension never went into effect. (The DCSO has made internal practice changes to ensure that disciplined corrections officers are served properly in the future.) The other officer was found not guilty of excessive use of force by the disciplinary board. The two other officers involved were voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit and did not receive any disciplinary action. There are pending charges against two of the officers involved for aggravated assault. This settlement does not encompass the claims against them.
The Department of Law has recommended that Metro council settle this claim for $110,000 to Mr. Warren for reimbursement of his medical expenses, future medical expenses, pain & suffering, and emotional distress,and attorney’s fees of $50,000, for a total of $160,000. The council is set to approve this settlement Wednesday night.
According to Metro Legal, this $160,000 settlement would be the third payment from the Judgments and Losses Fund in FY19 for a cumulative total of $405,000.The fund balance would be $2,646,915 after this payment.