On Nov. 5, 2016, three deputies from the Cheatham County Sheriff's Department in Tennesse strapped an 18-year-old to a jailhouse chair and abused him with a stun gun for 50 painful seconds.
The teen has now retaliated with a lawsuit, accusing the men of using force "without legitimate law enforcement purpose” and others of doing nothing to help him. After watching the surveillance video, it's difficult to see this incident as anything less than torture.
Warning: The below video contains violent content.
According to the Tennessean, Norris was arrested two days earlier for theft and possession of both marijuana and an illegal weapon. While in jail, he allegedly suffered a mental collapse and became self-harming, so authorities bound him to a chair by his legs, arms, and waist. They deemed him "very combative" and used a stun gun to get the struggling teen to sit, but the lawsuit claims that later that night, while Norris was on suicide watch, three deputies approached him again.
Deputy Sheriffs Mike Bryant, Josh Marriott, and Jeff Key went to work on the teen with a stun gun in attacks that no longer seemed necessary, with some of the jolts dangerously close to his heart, The Washington Post reports. The lawsuit only mentions two instances of excessive force with a stun gun, but William Chapman, Norris' stepfather, told WTVF that he counted over 40 burns.
"I said, 'Jordan what is that?' It looked like he had the measles," Chapman told reporters. "And he said, 'That's where they tased me.' I could not wrap my head around that."
Initially, Norris' stepfather said that he believed the department's version of events, but when he learned that his stepson had been tied to a chair and left vulnerable for three hours, he became doubtful that the stun gun was necessary.
Cases of violence committed by law enforcement can often be traced from the top down, and the incident at Cheatham County Sheriff's Department is no exception. If leadership is unsympathetic and derisive to the populations they serve and the individuals they detain, the likelihood of their subordinates taking this as permission to act cruelly increases.
Sheriff Mike Breedlove talked about his deputies' arrests on the department's Facebook page, but his comments have either been deleted or made private since the recent lawsuit. The Washington Post was able to obtain the text of some of these posts however, and they reveal that —while Bryant, Marriott, and Key are ultimately responsible for their own choices — they perhaps were surrounded by a work culture that encouraged the worst in them.
"Let it be known he was going to kill any Deputy who tried to arrest him. He was armed with stolen weapons. A drug dealer by trade and on the fast track to live the Thug life," Breedlove wrote the day after Norris' arrest. “The team, armed with a search warrant, invited themselves into the ‘House of Norris’ on Little Pond Creek with such dynamic quickness, he became shocked with awe and peed a little bit. Great job Cheatham SWAT!”
The three deputies have been put on administrative leave, but even if they are fired from Cheatham, things won't necessarily change. As it happens in many lawsuits against law enforcement, more ugly realities may reveal themselves but few are actually taken care of. The only way for the sheriff's department to move forward is to act conscientiously and address them.
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