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Tasered biker sues in civil rights case

The Ironton Tribune: Tasered biker sues in civil rights case

By Benita Heath | The Tribune
Published Thursday, September 24, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — The bicyclist who was the center of a Tasering incident last year is taking Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless, a Sheriff’s deputy and Chesapeake village officials to federal court.

On Aug. 19, Anthony Patrick, 38, of Huntington, W.Va., filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati against Lawless, Charles Hammonds, a Lawrence County sheriff’s deputy; the Village of Chesapeake, Russell Bennett, Chesapeake police chief at the time; and Dennis Gibson, the current village chief.

The suit was filed exactly one year to the day to when Patrick, a construction firm owner and cycling enthusiast, along with a juvenile, a nationally ranked racer, were pedaling through Chesapeake. The incident was documented in “Bicycling,” a national monthly magazine, and on its Website bicycling.com.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages following what the documents filed in district court describe as “the illegal and intentional detention, attack, beating, arrest and Tasering of plaintiff by defendants.”

Patrick was stopped and Tasered by Hammonds and Gibson, who was a Chesapeake patrolman at the time.

The incident happened on County Road 1, near the Chesapeake Library.

As the two bikers rode down County Road 1 toward the Robert C. Byrd Bridge, Hammonds “drove his sheriff’s vehicle beside plaintiff and told plaintiff ‘he should not be riding on the roadway,’” the suit states.

The Plaintiff responded that he had a legal right to operate his bicycle on the roadway.

“In response, Defendant Hammonds became enraged and began yelling at the two cyclists and several times telling them to ‘get off the (expletive) road’,” the suit alleges.

The suit also alleges that Hammonds tried to force the two bikers off the road and deliberately tried to “cause a collision between the Sheriff’s cruiser and John Doe and his bicycle.”

Next the suit claims Hammonds fired a Taser at Patrick and then “pulled out his telescoping baton and came after plaintiff, swinging the baton at plaintiff with the intention of striking plaintiff and incapacitating him and attacking and assaulting plaintiff.”

When Gibson arrived on the scene, he “without warning to the plaintiff, deployed his Taser, firing the Taser barbs into plaintiff’s back and causing significant jolts of electrical current to flow into the plaintiff’s body.

“… Upon information and belief, defendants Gibson/and or Hammonds intentionally and maliciously deployed the Taser more than once after the plaintiff was incapacitated and lying on the ground,” the suit claims.

The defendant was subsequently arrested and taken to the Lawrence County Jail, charged with obstructing official business, resisting arrest, attempted assault on a police officer and operating a bike on the road.

The case was filed with Lawrence County Municipal Court Oct. 17, a hearing was held before Municipal Court Judge Donald R. Capper on the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case because the officer had no probably cause for the arrest.

Capper granted the motion and three months later the Lawrence County prosecutor’s office dismissed the case.

Earlier this year Patrick’s attorney, Steve Magas of Cincinnati, requested information from the law enforcement authorities involved.

“I never heard from them,” Magas said in a phone interview with The Tribune Wednesday. “I just got zip. I did get some response for requests for information and some other information.”

Magas admits Patrick’s injuries were not debilitating, but said the suit was filed “because it was wrong. …he was injured from this very intentional and misdirected sort of road rage with a badge. … It has shocked the conscience of the bicycling world, someone can shoot you with a Taser because you were exercising your right to move about the country.”

The suit seeks a jury trial.

Phone calls made to Lawless, Gibson and Brenda Neville, counsel for the village of Chesapeake, were not returned by press time. Chesapeake Mayor Dick Gilpin declined comment.

A lawsuit only states one side of a case.