Cheatham County, Tenn., sheriff’s deputies are at the center of a newly filed federal lawsuit that claims the officers used excessive force on an 18-year-old who was taken into custody late 2016.
The lawsuit accuses deputies of using a Taser on Jordan Norris multiple times, leaving some 40 Taser burns on his body, even as one officer appeared to mock him.
According to News Channel 5, the lawsuit in question named three deputies as defendants, claiming the officers used a Taser on Norris while he was “physically restrained” in a restraint chair.
“It’s terrible,” Norris told the news station.
Pictures from the lawsuit show the teen’s body covered with burn marks after he was released from custody, which shocked his stepfather, William Chapman.
“I said, ‘Jordan what is that?’ It looked like he had the measles. And he said, ‘That’s where they tased me.’ I could not wrap my head around that,” Chapman said, adding that he counted more than 40 burns.
“I was actually giving the police benefit of the doubt over my own child because I was thinking he must have been fighting back, he must have been resisting,” Chapman said.
However, Chapman’s opinion quickly changed after he saw video of his stepson’s encounter with police. Deputies are shown strapping a struggling Norris into the chair, even as they deployed Tasers. In the video, one deputy can be heard telling Norris, “I’ll keep doing that until I run out of batteries.”
“‘Do you want me to do it again? We got a whole bunch of batteries we can drain into you pretty much. We will do it over and over until we have no more,’” Norris recalled a deputy asking him.
The Tennesseean reports that Norris was arrested Nov. 3 and charged with felony manufacturing/possession of marijuana for resale, possession of drug paraphernalia, theft under $500 and five counts of possession of a prohibited weapon. He was also later charged with felony vandalism of over $1,000 and simple assault while still incarcerated on Nov. 7.
Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove said the teen was originally suspected of stealing a semi-automatic rifle. Sheriff’s deputies received information that he was going to use the firearm on any law-enforcement officer who was trying to arrest him.
A post on the sheriff office’s Facebook page from the week Norris was arrested apparently showed that even the sheriff mocked Norris, writing that Norris “peed a little bit” when he was first arrested by the SWAT team. The sheriff also referred to Norris as “a drug dealer by trade on the fast track to live the thug life,” News Channel 5 reports.
The sheriff told reporters that the Facebook page was meant to be entertaining, saying it’s something he writes once a week to update the public about the arrests made by the department.
The sheriff added that Norris’ treatment by his deputies was necessary because of the teen’s behavior. Cheatham County’s Use of Force Report indicates that Norris began “banging his head against the door” of his cell and was threatening other inmates, which prompted officers to restrain him.
“I think he had some sort of breakdown. They said he was feeling suicidal,” Norris’ stepfather, Chapman, said, adding that it was clear his stepson was not in his right mind.
Deputies acknowledged that they used a handheld Taser to “drive-stun” Norris while they tried to get him into the chair. But the lawsuit further accuses deputies of Tasing the teen later that night while he was on suicide watch, “physically restrained by the chair and multiple officers.”
“We think the tapes speak for themselves,” attorney Ben Raybin, who is representing the family, told the news station.
Eventually, Norris was taken to a patrol car to go to the hospital, during which he appeared to be confused and unaware of what was happening. He later broke out the window of a patrol car before being taken to a mental-health facility.
“When I found that he was actually strapped to a restraint chair, it was even more mind-boggling. It didn’t make any sense,” Chapman said.