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Two Hamilton Co. deputies on leave, 'excessive force' investigation underway

The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office has released dash cam footage of an incident that involved the potential use of "excessive force" - and which the District Attorney himself calls "disturbing." (Image from video via Hamilton County DA's Office)
The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office has released dash cam footage of an incident that involved the potential use of "excessive force" - and which the District Attorney himself calls "disturbing." (Image from video via Hamilton County DA's Office)
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UPDATE (Thursday, July 25th):

James Mitchell's charges he got after the traffic stop were dismissed in Hamilton County Criminal Court on Thursday after the District Attorney's Office filed an order to dismiss the charges.

There was no one there representing Mitchell's case.

Judge Alex McVeagh then said that Mitchell's charges were dropped.

But the investigation over what happened continues. Depend on us to keep you posted.

UPDATE (Friday afternoon):

James Mitchell, the man who has claimed 'excessive force' was used in a strip search Wednesday, was booked in Marion County jail.

Depend on us to keep you updated on this developing story.

Agencies all the way up to the FBI, are looking into what happened in the newly-released dash cam video.

Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies arrested a man on Wednesday in Soddy-Daisy. The NAACP is also involved since this possible use of excessive force shows two white officers arresting a black suspect.


This is an edited version of the full dash camera video. NewsChannel 9 cut out personal information of the suspect.

In the video, Hamilton County deputies can be seen hitting a man in handcuffs. According to an arrest report written by deputies, James Mitchell was combative against officers at the traffic stop in Soddy-Daisy.

You can see a Hamilton County deputy striking Mitchell several times.

The dash cam video, released by the Hamilton County DA's Office, also shows what deputies pull what they call a bag of crack cocaine out of Mitchell's underwear.

"We were all in tears," says Carlos Williams. He was one of the first people to watch the footage on Friday.

Williams along with members of the NAACP believe Mitchell was stripped of his dignity and manhood.

They say Mitchell was beaten, stripped down, and then inappropriately searched on the side of the road while other cars drove by.

Sheriff Jim Hammond launched an internal investigation to decide if his deputies crossed the line of department policy.

"After reviewing that video, I was disturbed at what I saw," says District Attorney Neal Pinkston. He is conducting a separate investigation.

Pinkston is involving the FBI, TBI, and US Attorney's Office to see if the deputies' actions cross the line into criminal behavior.

NewsChannel 9 met with Attorney Bill Speek who is unrelated to the case but understands the laws in play here.

He watched the video and commented on how disturbing it was. Speek said after the officers frisk Mitchell, they obviously were not searching him as a safety concern.

"They've got him completely under control. They've got him restrained they can't put him in the back of the squad car? There are no safety issues here," said Speek.

Mitchell's attorney, Robin Flores, says his client is being treated for injuries that happened during what he calls a "body cavity search."

Attorney Speek said by law, officers need a warrant to perform a cavity search and he mentioned that the search is to be done in a reasonable manner.

Flores says the District Attorney plans to drop charges against Mitchell on Monday.

Later Friday afternoon, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tweeted a response to the video, saying he found it "disturbing," and that the city's police department "does not allow this type of search."

This is a developing story and will be updated.


Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond says two of his officers have been placed on administrative leave after a traffic stop incident on Wednesday that involved the potential use of "excessive force."

The suspect's attorney, Robin Flores, tells us his client is being treated for injuries sustained during a "body cavity search."

Hammond says an internal investigation is underway. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston says his office will also conduct an investigation.

District Attorney Pinkston says he’s seen the dash cam video and calls it “disturbing”. He says he's called TBI, FBI, the US Attorney’s Office and Governor Bill Lee’s legal counsel to determine if their actions are criminal. NewsChannel 9 is working to learn more about the incident.

D.A. Pinkston says the dashcam video of the incident will be released later on Friday.

Sheriff Hammond says, "I am committed to the transparency and accountability of the HCSO and the personnel who serve our community."

Watch the news conference below.

Members of the NAACP were present at the news conference and asked several questions about officer training. Sheriff Hammond responded that these incidents can happen and that he will see that this incident is investigated fully.

The NAACP confirmed to NewsChannel 9 that the suspect in the case is James Myron Mitchell.

The NAACP held a news press conference about Wednesday's traffic stop that led to two Hamilton Co. deputies placed on paid administrative leave.

Family and friends of James Myron Mitchell told NewsChannel 9 they are upset over the incident.

According to friend Latisha Coonrod, who was driving the vehicle, both she and Mitchell were pulled over on Wednesday for the “tint on the windows of the vehicle.” However, Coonrod tells us Mitchell then admitted to the officer that he was carrying marijuana for personal use.

This is when Coonrod says things went bad.

According to her, Mitchell was soon handcuffed, beaten and stripped of his clothes – and then an “illegal search was performed on the side of the highway.”

Mitchell’s sister, Melanie – who reached out to NewsChannel 9 through email – says her brother “sustained injuries” that were treated at Parkridge Hospital. According to Melanie, James Mitchell was released on his own recognizance with no bond.

Melanie says her brother does have a criminal history, but that it "doesn’t give them a reason to beat my brother nor violate his civil rights.”

However based on the police affidavit, the Hamilton County Sheriff officials said Mitchell became “combative” after the marijuana was confiscated and during his “search of his person.”

After repeated attempts of Mitchell resisting and “reaching into his waistband” of his underwear, the affidavit quotes the officer as saying he delivered multiple blows to Mitchell’s body until he “complied,” in fear of him possibly reaching for a weapon.

The affidavit says the officer then felt and found a torn bag in Mitchell’s underwear that turned out to be 1.16 grams of crack cocaine, according to the affidavit.

The NAACP tells us it plans to hold a news conference later on Friday after District Attorney Pinkston releases the dashcam video.

Flores tells NewsChannel 9 that he was told charges would be dropped against Mitchell.

Tennessee state law prohibits body cavity searches without a warrant: "No person shall be subjected to a body cavity search by a law enforcement officer or by another person acting under the direction, supervision or authority of a law enforcement officer unless the search is conducted pursuant to a search warrant issued in accordance with Rule 41 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure."

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This is a developing story. Count on us to keep you updated as details become available.

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