Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston has requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) investigate an incident early Tuesday involving an arrest by several sheriff deputies that he said he found "troubling."
Later on Tuesday, Sheriff Jim Hammond hit the action of the district attorney, saying he in effect "indicted" the deputies and "sensationalized" the case without allowing their side to be heard in court.
The officers involved are all white and the suspect, Ronald Arrington Jr., is black. He is from Ohio.
DA Pinkston said, "Several deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department arrested Reginald Arrington Jr. on the following charges: resisting arrest, simple assault on police, criminal impersonation, pedestrian in roadway and four counts of aggravated assault on police.
"During the arrest process, the officers and Arrington got into a physical altercation. The bodycam and dashcam footage from the officers caused enough concern to warrant an investigation."
He said, "I have not made a final determination on anything related to this case, but what I saw in the videos was troubling. That's why I'm requesting a thorough investigation to ascertain whether or not excessive force was used in this incident."
DA Pinkston added that all of the charges against Arrington were dropped later Tuesday morning.
He said he has also referred the matter to the Department of Justice for possible investigation, and notified the general counsel for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
Sheriff Hammond said, “Earlier this morning, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston released a video involving my deputies and Reginald Arrington, Jr., The video depicts my deputies’ actions in response to Arrington’s resisting arrest. By releasing this video, along with dismissing Arrington’s charges, General Pinkston essentially removed my deputies’ ability to offer direct testimony under oath pertaining to their actions and their training utilized in this incident.
"By hastily dismissing charges and releasing this video without allowing a legal, preliminary probable cause hearing to take place, I feel General Pinkston’s actions will improperly influence and sensationalize the events of this incident to the public without allowing the legal process to effectively take place. Effectively, what General Pinkston has chosen to do is indict my deputies in the court of public opinion prior to facts being presented in a court of law.
"Many of our citizens will view this video of Arrington’s resisting lawful arrest and may share concerns over how my deputies responded. Upon arrest, Arrington became combative at which time my deputies utilized compliance techniques, including the use of batons to eventually gain compliance. I ask our community to not rush to judgment based on the contents of the video, but allow for the investigation to take place at which time the actions of both my deputies and those of Arrington will be thoroughly reviewed. The dash cam video in question was taken internally by our personnel at the scene.
"Based upon preliminary review of the video, I am not placing any of the deputies involved in this incident on administrative leave. However, to ensure this event is thoroughly reviewed, I have ordered an Administrative Review to be conducted to ensure Arrington’s treatment was justified and our policies and procedures were followed.
"We are a nation of law and order and in order to remain so, it is imperative we allow and encourage the legal process to take place. This includes allowing for preliminary probable cause hearings to take place so all sides can be heard. As always, we welcome an outside review and will cooperate and offer any evidence necessary to seek a legal and appropriate resolution.
"As sheriff, it has always been my intention that this agency stand firm and remain transparent even in the harshest light of public scrutiny. However, I cannot sit back and remain idle while my deputies have their right to be heard infringed upon.”
The HCSO Deputies involved in this incident are:
- Sergeant Mickey Rountree
- Corporal Brian Killingsworth
- Deputy Nick Dewy
- Deputy Todd Cook
- Deputy Charlene Choate
As per the TN Rules of Professional Conduct and as this is an ongoing investigation, the HCSO will not have any additional comments regarding this incident at this time.
Sheriff Hammond pointed to this section of Rules of Professional Conduct:
a) Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 3.8 (f) (located in the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules) states, “(f) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent employees of the prosecutor's office from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under RPC 3.6 or this Rule; and discourage investigators, law enforcement personnel, and other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal matter from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under RPC 3.6 or this Rule.”
b) In accordance with 11 (b) above, the HCSO nor its people will make statements regarding ongoing investigations. If we do make comments about an incident involving our people, it can taint the investigation and have a negative impact on the rights of the suspect, the victim, or the employee.
Deputies said they were dispatched to 4804 Waverly Court on a suspicious person. They were told a man in a blue jump suit was walking up to females and asking them questions. It was also believed that he had a weapon in his pocket.
Deputies said they found a man fitting that description walking along Old Lee Highway. He said his car was at a nearby Super 8 leaking gas. He said he had gone to see a female he knew, but she told him to leave. Deputies said a baton was used on him multiple times to try to get him under control.
Deputies said he was walking on the wrong side of the roadway. They said the man at first gave a false name and acted erratically. They said he emptied his pockets, saying he did not want to get shot. He also lay down in the roadway with his hands stretched out.
The arrest report says the man tried to jerk away from a deputy and he made several attempts to pull a deputy's gun out of his holster.
He was then struck in the leg with a police baton and he was able to knock a corporal to the ground by using his shoulder. They said he began to kick at the officers.
After he was finally subdued, officers said he was out of breath and sweating profusely so he was taken to Erlanger Hospital to be checked out. It was found he "only had an elevated heart rate."
The report says during the incident that Arrington "displayed superhuman strength and limited pain response.
One officer suffered a head injury and another a hand injury, it was stated.