The family of a Tennessee man who died in police custody has sued police officers, a doctor and others, alleging the man died because he was hog-tied by police for an extended period and could not breathe properly.
The lawsuit seeking more than $150,000 damages was filed Wednesday in federal court in Tennessee by the wife and child of Troy Goode of Memphis.
Goode, 30, died last July after his arrest in Southaven, Mississippi, when he was behaving erratically after taking LSD. He was there with his wife to attend a rock concert.
The suit also names the city of Southaven, a hospital, an emergency medical worker and others.
A Mississippi medical examiner found Goode died from “complications of LSD toxicity,” and an autopsy classified the death accidental.
Another autopsy released by Goode’s lawyers, however, determined that the man had died from being hog-tied for an extended time.
The suit said Goode and his wife, Kelli, went to Southaven on July 18 to attend a rock concert but before the show Goode took LSD. Then, the suit said, Goode began to “exhibit fear and paranoia” and his wife chose to drive them home to Memphis.
En route, Goode made his wife stop their vehicle because he felt he could not stay inside the vehicle, according to the suit. He got out in a parking lot and then his actions led a woman to call police, thinking “she was witnessing a domestic disturbance,” the suit said. The city, in a news release last November, said he was “running in and out of traffic, jumping on moving vehicles.”
When Southaven police arrived, Kelli Goode told police her husband was not violent but had taken LSD and was frightened, according to the suit.
At that point, according to the suit, Troy Goode held up his hands and said, “Okay, I’ll go,” but then opened the door to a police cruiser and a patrol dog got out. Then, the suit alleged, a police officer allowed the dog to attack Goode, forcing him to the ground and biting him several times on his left arm.
After being attacked by the dog, the suit alleged, Goode “attempted to get up” and a police officer then “drew his ‘taser’ gun from its holster and willfully, intentionally, wantonly, with reckless disregard for decedent’s well-being, shot Troy in the back.”
The suit alleged officers then hog-tied him and left him hog-tied for an hour and a half, while he was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto to be treated for dog bites and while he was in the hospital’s emergency department.
Hog-tying involves shackling someone’s hands and feet in a knot behind one’s back. The suit contends this kind of shackling has been known to cause breathing problems.
Throughout, the suit alleged, Goode repeatedly showed signs of having trouble breathing and struggled against his shackles, which should have alerted the police and medical professionals that he was having difficulty breathing. The city has denied that, saying he did not at any time claim he “could not breathe or appear short of breath.”
The suit also charged that Goode was strapped down with additional restraints in the ambulance.
“Troy arrived at the Emergency Department still prone, strapped down and hogtied,” the suit said. Even though his vital signs showed he needed oxygen, the hospital staff “did not supply Troy with a supplemental source of oxygen.” He died in the hospital.
City officials have defended the actions of the police officers. Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite, the suit said, has blamed Goode. The suit quoted the mayor as saying he “made some bad decisions that night that heavily influenced his death.” The mayor had also described Goode’s behavior as violent and, in the words of the mayor, that “mandated that he be restrained for the public safety of our other citizens, as well as himself,” the suit said.
“Hogtying is well-known to be deadly,” the suit charged. “Troy’s death is not a simple case of negligence. Instead, it reflects a systemic failure and willful violation of civil rights by the defendants.” The suit – seeking to become a class-action case – also wants to force Southaven to stop hogtying individuals.
Lawyers for the city of Southaven did not return a call seeking comment. Tim Edwards, the lawyer for the Goode family, also did not return a call for comment. A spokeswoman with the Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto, which was named as a defendant, said the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.
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