On June 14, 2012, police were called to a Salvation Army facility which operated a re-entry housing facility for convicted felons in Chattanooga, Tennessee, because 36-year-old resident Adam Tatum was allegedly in a confrontation with Adam McGhee, a fellow resident.
Tatum was at the facility because he pled guilty to federal robbery charges in 2002 and had been released from federal prison to complete the last few months of his sentence there.
When Chattanooga police officers Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley approached Tatum and McGhee, both men turned to walk away. Emmer came up behind Tatum and placed him in a choke-hold. With Cooley’s help, Emmer threw Tatum to the floor.
Both officers then drew their metal batons and began viciously beating Tatum on his legs and arms. Tatum’s left leg was fractured in two places and one of the broken bones pierced his skin, sending blood spurting onto the floor. Tatum’s right leg was fractured in six places. Each officer delivered more than 100 blows.
More officers arrived and one leaned over Tatum and punched him in the face and head more than 15 times. The officers handcuffed Tatum and forced him to walk out of the facility about 100 feet down a sidewalk, where he then collapsed. Inside, officers attempted to clean up the blood and later said they picked up a knife from the floor—although the knife was never inventoried or mentioned in any written report.
While waiting for an ambulance, Emmer kicked Tatum in the legs and chest, knocking him backward to the ground.
When Tatum arrived at the hospital, there was so much blood on his body that medical personnel at first believed he had been shot. Surgery was required to fix his legs.
Tatum was charged with assaulting both officers, assaulting McGhee and possession of marijuana.
On July 14, 2012, after Tatum’s defense attorney was shown a still photograph that the prosecution contended showed him with a pocket knife in his hand, Tatum pled guilty to assaulting the officers and possession of marijuana. He was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of 11 months and 29 days.
In November 2012, a security video of the incident was revealed publicly for the first time, showing the severity of the beating. The video also showed that prior to the arrival of police, there was no indication that Tatum and McGhee were in a confrontation. The video showed them talking while other facility residents were calmly walking past them.
The prosecution had never disclosed the existence of the video or turned it over to Tatum’s attorney.
Tatum filed a motion to withdraw his plea based on the withholding of evidence. On March 11, 2013, Tatum was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to the assault and marijuana charges. He pled guilty to assaulting McGhee and the other charges were dismissed by the prosecution. He was sentenced to six months in jail and got credit for time served.
Cooley and Emmer were fired by the Chattanooga Police Department. Tatum filed a multi-million dollar civil rights suit against Cooley, Emmer and the Chattanooga Police Department. The lawsuit was settled for $125,000 in December 2013. Tatum said he will walk with a permanent limp.
– Maurice Possley