A Cadiz resident has leveled claims that three Cadiz police officers used what he called excessive force during an arrest on April 3. Andy Dawson claims that officers choked him, punched him in the head and beat him with night sticks after they accused him of resisting arrest.
Dawson was charged with obstruction of governmental operations, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
He named his alleged attackers as Sgt. Rick Martin, Officer Chad Grace and Officer Scott Brown. The department’s duty roster confirmed that all three officers were on duty at the time of the alleged incident.
Dawson said that he went to the Cadiz Police Department at 10 p.m. to find out why his cousin Seth Hooks had been arrested earlier in the evening. “I don’t deny that I was obnoxious, but I was not cussing or threatening,” he said, adding that he carried no weapons when arrested.
“They kept telling me ‘Andy leave, Andy leave,’ and I said I had a right to be here with freedom of assembly and the right to petition. I could tell they were getting frustrated and told me that I needed to leave. Martin attached his hand to my shirt and shoved me out of the police station. He said that he would arrest me if I said one more word. I asked ‘For What?’ and he pushed me against the wall and told me to put my hands over my head. He grabbed my left hand and I said ‘Whoa.” As soon as I did that, He had me in a headlock and punched me in the eye three or four times. I think I got hit in the head, once in the cheek and one good time in the eye.”
Dawson said that Grace joined the alleged assault using his police baton. “I felt something hit the back of my leg four times. Grace had a Billy club that he was hitting me with. There were three hits on the back of my left leg and once on my right buttocks. Scott (Brown) did a swan-dive on me, tackled me, then handcuffed me to bring me back into the station.”
Hooks said that he protested the incident but Grace threatened to use pepper spray if he did not stop. “He told us to shut up, and I said please don’t spray us.”
Dawson said that after the alleged attack, Martin apologized for hitting him in the eye. He said that after posting bond, he sought medical treatment from Dr. Eduardo Pavon.
Pavon’s report listed swelling in the metacarpal (hand) and palmar areas and evidence of surgical wounds there. Dawson said the surgical wounds were related to an earlier surgery where he still had stitches. His report noted a “large ecchymotic (bruise) area nine by seven centimeters in the posterior region of the left thigh,” a second ecchymotic area in the left calf, and a third in the left popliteal (back of the knee) area. Pavon noted a one by four centimeter ecchymotic injury on his right buttock and ecchymosis “at the level of the right upper and lower eyelids,” but indicated Dawson had no difficulty seeing.
The report was dated April 4, the day after the incident.
Police Chief Hollis Alexander said that he is investigating the allegations. “While the investigation is ongoing, I have to decline further comment except to say that the three officers are still on duty.”
After the alleged incident, Dawson said that he requested medical attention from the police. “It knocked out three of the stitches in my hand from surgery I had 10 or 12 days before. I asked to be taken to the doctor, but they would not take me. Instead they took me to my house to get three Lortabs and let me take them all there. They let me take a bottle of Seroquel that I use to sleep with me in my pocket. They didn’t check for a prescription or nothing.”
Jailer Glen Cunningham arrived at the police station to transport Dawson and Hooks to the Christian County Jail. “When I got there he said, ‘Hey, I need medical attention.’ Well if I took him to the jail, they would require me to take him to the hospital before accepting him as a prisoner. One of the cops asked me about taking him home to get some medicine. I said it was O.K. to get it. They took him home and when he got back, he seemed fine. He even had a drink. He said that if he could go home and get his medicine, that he would be ok. He seemed to be where he was satisfied.”
Hooks said that he watched the alleged attack from a front interviewing room at the police station. “(Grace) swung that Billy club like a baseball bat over his head as hard as he could. He may have held it with two hands once, but mostly one hand. He hit him three times while he was on the ground. Scott Brown jumped on him after he was already down.” Hooks added that Martin told Dawson, “You don’t get to go now,” when asked to go to the hospital.
In the uniform citation detailing Dawson’s arrest, Martin said, “He began cussing and becoming loud. He was told that he was under arrest and told to put his hands behind his back. He resisted arrest and had to be physically taken to the ground.”
Cunningham described Dawson’s injuries as a skinned elbow, a spot on the forehead and the injured hand. “I think he had an accident before and a bad hand.” When asked about injuries to Dawson’s lower body, Cunningham said that he didn’t see any, “We never had any problems with them all the way to Hoptown.”
County Attorney H.B. Quinn said that he was unaware of Dawson’s allegations. “I am not familiar with the facts of his claim. In any case that local officials are alleged to have used excessive force, my office would not work on it. We would probably see an outside agency come to investigate, and might need a special prosecutor if charges were filed.”
Commonwealth Attorney G.L. Ovey said that due to a close working relationship, he would likely ask to be recused from the case if charges were brought against the three officers. “In general, I would look into the allegations and meet the individual to find out of the claims could be substantiated. If required to further, I would meet with the supervisor or the chief to advise them of the charges made. We could ask for the Special Investigations Unit of the State Police to investigate.”
Asked if in his experiences as a state prosecutor, investigations of this nature were handled internally within police departments, Ovey said, “I have full confidence in all police chiefs to investigate fully. If anything is amiss, they will take care of it.”