Officials at a Tennessee sheriff’s office are disputing the extent of the injuries suffered by an African-American man brutally beaten by a white police officer while handcuffed and on the ground.
In a press release Thursday, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said medical staff who tended to 25-year-old Charles Toney after his arrest in Chattanooga found no evidence of the injuries described by Toney’s lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, the Associated Press reported.
Merritt, who’s been hired in several police misconduct cases, argued, however, that hospital records proved the young man not only suffered a collapsed lung, but fractured ribs, finger and nose during his Dec. 3 arrest. Shocking footage from the incident showed Hamilton County Detective Blake Kilpatrick repeatedly kicking and punching Toney while he’s handcuffed.
“I mean, it is right there. The evidence is right there,” Toney told WRCB-TV.
Kilpatrick justified his use of force in a police report, writing that he struck Toney because he was being combative and bit one officer’s fingers. Meanwhile, a copy of a report from the jail’s medical intake listed no injuries to Toney besides “swelling in the mouth, jaw, or neck.”
In the section listing lesions, bruises or scars, the medic wrote Toney’s injuries were “within normal limits,” according to AP.
Toney’s mugshot, which was taken around the same time, seems to dispute this and shows the young man with several cuts and lacerations, some of them bloody, on his face. The young man was released within hours after posting bail and treated at Parkridge Hospital.
“The reason why [the jail] nurse wouldn’t have been able to observe any injuries from Mr. Toney other than the bruises and contusions to his face is because she doesn’t have X-ray vision and she didn’t perform any X-ray,” Merritt argued.
The attorney argued the intake form showed that the jail’s medical staff had failed to do a complete evaluation of Toney’s injuries — not that he wasn’t injured at all. Local prosecutors have dropped the criminal charges of assault, resisting arrest and tampering with evidence connected with the arrest, but Toney still faces drug possession charges from the outstanding warrant that initiated the case.
The incident is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Kilpatrick remains on desk duty.
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