A Claiborne County couple alleges a county deputy and a Tazewell police officer beat up their 14-year-old son after he tried to run from authorities on an ATV, hitting the boy so hard he suffered a concussion and a broken eye socket.
Joe and Pam Baker, on behalf of their son, identified as "RB", are seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages.
They name as defendants Claiborne County, Sheriff Bob Brooks, Deputy Kenneth J. Ochoa Jr., the city of Tazewell, Tazewell Police Chief Jeremy Myers and Officer Colby Werner as well as unnamed other officers.
The Bakers filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. Knoxville attorney Lance Baker represents them in the complaint alleging excessive force and civil rights violations.
WBIR reached out to the sheriff but did not hear back. Myers said he could not comment about litigation and suggested questions be posed to the city attorney.
According to the Bakers, the incident occurred early Nov. 8, 2020, while the teen was spending the night with a friend. It was a Sunday.
About 5 a.m. that morning, the boys "decided to take the ATV down the road to a little market to get snacks. They got there, but the market had not opened yet, so the boys turned right around and headed back to their friend's house," the lawsuit states.
A deputy saw the boy going south on U.S. Highway 25E, noting its headlights and brake lights were not on. He tried to stop the ATV.
RB fled. Several law officers took part in a pursuit.
"RB drove the ATV over country roads and through yards, trying to get back to his friend's house," the lawsuit states.
Officers tried to box the ATV in, and it ended up in a ditch.
According to the lawsuit, as soon as the teen started to get off the ATV, he was grabbed from behind by Werner and then "tackled violently" from behind by Ochoa.
He was slammed to the dirt, the lawsuit states.
The Bakers allege Ochoa punched their son repeatedly in the face. The officers claim RB was resisting them and headbutted them, the lawsuit states. But he was actually trying to move his head so he could breathe, the Bakers allege.
Werner kneed and kicked the teen with his boot in the face, head and torso, the lawsuit states.
By then more officers arrived on the scene. Officers cursed the 14-year-old.
The lawsuit states that RB complained that Ochoa had "knocked the --- out of me!" Ochoa responded, "You're lucky that's all you got, you little -----."
The Bakers allege their son was knocked unconscious, suffered a concussion, severe facial trauma, a "blow-out fracture of the left orbital wall," a bloody nose, jaw pain, and "head trauma from the beating and kicking."
According to the lawsuit, body camera video from the incident shows Ochoa "bragging and laughing about how he -- all of 35 years old and 235 pounds -- tackled a 14-year-old boy to the ground and 'punched him.' To his buddies, Dep. Ochoa says, 'I didn't want to kill the boy,' and 'I ------ clocked him right in his ----- face!'"
RB required surgery for his facial fractures and had to see a neurologist for his head injuries, among other doctors, the lawsuit states.
Authorities charged the boy with 15 criminal charges, many in regards to his use of the ATV, according to the lawsuit.
The county and town agencies failed to adequately train personnel in how to respond to such incidents, the Bakers allege.
The boy has suffered lingering trauma as a result of how he was treated, the Bakers allege.