District Attorney launches excessive force investigation into Hamilton County traffic stop

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CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The District Attorney’s Office will investigate an excessive force case against two Hamilton County deputies based on video of a traffic stop.

D.A Neil Pinkston and Sheriff Jim Hammond announced the investigation in a news conference Friday morning.

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It is a dash-cam view of a traffic stop on Wednesday.

After seeing it, Pinkston says he immediately called for an investigation into the matter.

“After reviewing that video,  I was somewhat disturbed at what I saw, and I’ve appointed an investigator from my office, to investigate the potential excessive force that was seen in this video. In addition, I’ve contacted the TBI, to assist in this investigation. I’ve also contacted the U. S. Attorney’s office and the FBI in regard to this matter.”

The two officers will be placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Sheriff Hammond released this statement on the video:

As Sheriff, I want to reiterate to the citizens of Hamilton County that in light of today’s press conference and the video soon to be released, there are two separate investigations in relation to this incident. First, an Internal Affairs Investigation is being conducted that is focused on the facts of the case and the policies and procedures of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The second is a criminal review directed by Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston. I am committed to the transparency and accountability of the HCSO and the personnel who serve our community.”

On Wednesday, the sister of James Myron Mitchell sent us an account of a traffic stop that she says was a violation of his civil rights.

He was the passenger and Latisha Coonrod was the driver.

The sister says they were pulled over for the tint on the windows.

Coonrod told the sister that her brother told the officers he had some marijuana on him.

She said Mitchell was handcuffed, beaten, stripped of his clothes and performed a cavity search on him on the side of the highway.

She says they found crack cocaine from the cavity search.

His sister says Mitchell was injured and was hospitalized.

“He has a criminal history but that does not give them a reason to beat my brother nor violate his civil rights. ”

We found 25 charges filed against him from 1996-2009, mostly driving offenses. But they do include one cocaine possession, and a marijuana charge.

Neither the Sheriff nor the District Attorney have named the person(s) in the car in the disturbing video.

Mitchell was charged with the following counts on Thursday.

  • DRUGS GENERAL CATEGORY FOR RESALE
  • POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE
  • POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA
  • TAMPERING WITH OR FABRICATING EVIDENCE
  • RESISTING ARREST OR OBSTRUCTION OF LEGAL PROCESS

We contacted both Mitchell and his sister, and they are declining to comment on the case on advice of legal counsel.

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