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Lawsuit accuses Knoxville police of choking handcuffed man

June 22, 2020 GMT

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee couple has filed an excessive force lawsuit against the city of Knoxville and three of its police officers, who were seen on dashcam video pulling the handcuffed man from a cruiser and putting him in a chokehold.

John and Kelli Gorghis claim the officers violated John Gorgis’ rights, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

The officers, Jason Kalmanek, Matthew Speiser and Preston Tucker, responded to the couple’s home on June 13, 2019, after neighbors called and said the couple was fighting, the newspaper reported, citing a police report.

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The officers said John Gorghis initially resisted arrest and assaulted Tucker when he slammed Tucker’s fingers into the front door.

In a report, Tucker said he used “directional control” to put Gorghis on the ground but Gorghis said Tucker slammed his face onto the floor.

Video wasn’t taken inside the home because Knoxville police aren’t outfitted with body cameras.

Dashcam video shows the officers, who are all white, put the handcuffed Gorghis, who is also white, into the patrol vehicle, but about 20 minutes later, they pulled him out and slammed him to the ground.

In the video, one of the officers put his arm around Gorghis’ neck. Gorghis said the officer was choking him and another was holding his nose. The officers told Gorghis they were trying to rearrange Gorghis’ handcuffs from the front of his body to the back.

Tucker wrote a use-of-force report that mentioned Gorghis being taken down inside the home but didn’t mention the second incident seen in the dashcam video. The report was reviewed and approved by a supervisor and the internal affairs unit.

Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland no officers were disciplined nor was there an internal affairs investigation.

Erland declined to comment on the pending litigation.

On Friday, the Knoxville Police Department announced that they would no longer use chokehold techniques. The announcement comes amid the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died while in police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds.