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June 19, 2014

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Grayson Police Department

ASHLAND — A federal judge has dismissed a 2011 lawsuit filed by a man who claimed the officers of the Grayson Police Department used excessive force against him while executing a search warrant at his residence.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning on Thursday entered an order granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in the suit, which was filed in July 2011 by Glenn Jackson.

The suit named as defendants the city of Grayson; its police department; its mayor, George Steele; its former police Chief, Ed Ginter; Detective Sgt. Travis Steele; Officer Tony Cantrell, former Officer Chris Yavorcik; former Sgt. Casey Brammell, who is now Carter County sheriff; and other unknown officers of the police department.

The suit, which alleged various violations of Jackson’s constitutional rights as well as assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, among other claims, stemmed from Jackson’s arrest at his residence on July 10, 2010.

According to court records, Cantrell was investigating a burglary in Grayson and had learned property stolen in the incident may have been traded to Jackson for money and drugs. Cantrell relayed that information to Steele, who obtained a warrant to search Jackson’s residence. Cantrell’s informant also told him Jackson had weapons all around his home, records state.

Members of a team led by Steele entered Jackson’s home around midnight. Steele and an officer not named in the suit, Roy Ison, made their way into Jackson’s bedroom, where they found Jackson sitting up in bed with his hand on a pistol, the officers testified in a deposition.

Ison ordered Jackson to remove his hands from gun, put them in the air and get up off the bed. Steele testified Jackson refused to comply, and Ison then physically moved Jackson onto the floor, and, and as he did so, the pistol dropped onto the bed.

Once Jackson was on the floor, Steele testified he was lying face-first on an assault rifle. At that point, Ison’s flashlight went out and the room was plunged into darkness.

Steele said he placed his foot on Jackson’s left calf to determine whether he was rolling over, as he had been ordered to do, and he and Ison both ordered Jackson to get his hands out from under his body.

Steele then turned on the room lights and another officer entered the room and cuffed Jackson, who was escorted to the living room while the officers searched the premises. At that time, Jackson denied he was injured or needed medical treatment, documents state.

Jackson alleged in the suit that Steele physically assaulted him while he was still in ned after he was pulled out of bed. However, according to a 25-page memorandum in support of Bunning’s ruling, a videotape of the incident, shot from a camera worn by Ison, never showed the officers using force against Jackson.

Also, the tape largely backed the defendants’ testimony that Jackson was lying on or near an assault rifle when he was in the floor, Bunning wrote. And, photos from the search confirmed that Jackson had various firearms, including assault rifles, “staged  throughout his home,” according to the memo.

Jackson was taken to the Carter County Detention Center, where he denied needing medical attention. However, after his release he went to King’s Daughters Medical Center complaining of facial swelling, hearing loss, right shoulder, rib and knee pain and bruising. Nine days later, he went to the VA Medical Center in Huntington complaining of an injury to his penis.

Bunning ruled that Jackson had failed to prove the officers used excessive force against him and also found Jackson “posed a significant threat to the officers” safety” due to the cache of weapons he had stored in his home and his refusal to obey verbal commands.

Jackson also alleged Steele punched him in the ear after the lights went out in his bedroom. And, Bunning acknowledged it was impossible to tell from the tape whether some use of force occurred during that period. But, even if it did, those actions would not have been unreasonable given the circumstances, the judge wrote.

“In this rapidly evolving and uncertain situation, with the officers in close quarters of a man armed with a rifle, it was reasonable for Steele to have used non-lethal force against (Jackson) to disarm him and prevent him from using his firearm against them,” the memo states.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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