A Knoxville man arrested multiple times for drug possession - but rarely convicted - has filed a $5 million civil rights federal lawsuit against the Knoxville Police Department, its chief and five officers he says have harassed and stalked him and others under a “shadow assault on the minority community.”
“This assault is perpetrated through false allegations and embellishments consisting of but not limited to: window tint, noise ordinances, tail lights; wrong turns; harsh language; furtive actions and consent to any number of constitutional violations,” the complaint, filed April 4 on behalf of Brandon Allen Foxx in U.S. District Court, states.
The lawsuit says that Foxx is “only of many young black males stopped, and shaken down by KPD in the East side of Knoxville.”
Foxx, 26, accused the police department and officers of:
- Violating his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure when arrested without a warrant and probable cause.
- Violating his Eighth and Fourth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment when officers urged a K-9 drug-sniffing dog to attack him when he was not using violence toward them.
- Conspiring to deprive him of his constitutional rights by attempting to cover evidence of their use of excessive force.
- Creating a culture of unconstitutional behavior within the department that fails to properly train, supervise and discipline it officers.
Named in the lawsuit are: The Knoxville Police Department, Chief David Rausch, and officers Thomas Turner, Richard D. White, John Pickens, John A. Martin and Jordan G. Henderson.
City spokesman Jesse Mayshark on Sunday told WBIR 10News that officials cannot comment on the matter, which is protocol when the city is involved in litigation.
According to court records, officer White pulled over Foxx for speeding on March 18, 2014. He was taken into custody when officers discovered that he had an outstanding warrant for unpaid speeding tickets.
The following day, officers Turner and Pickens conducted a “knock and talk” at Foxx’s apartment. Police said they could smell marijuana “from the parking lot three stories away.” Officers then searched Foxx’s girlfriend’s apartment and found 477.3 grams of marijuana. Foxx told them it was his. He was charged with “drug free zone,” possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of drug paraphernalia, and arrested.
Two months later – in May of that year – officer Thomas pulled over Foxx for violating the noise ordinance with his car stereo. The officer said he could smell marijuana on Foxx and called the K-9 unit. He was charged with speeding, felony evading arrest and failure to obey stop signs.
Officer Turner also pulled him over for a window tint violating in September 2014 but never issued a citation.
In October 2014, Foxx pleaded guilty to simple possession of marijuana for the March 19 incident and misdemeanor evading for the May incident.
Officers Henderson and Turner again pulled Foxx over on April 3, 2015 “under the allegation there was a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.” A short time later, officer Martin arrived with the K-9 unit.
There appeared to be a struggle between officer Turner and Foxx, but it was hard to tell since Turner’s in-cruiser camera was shut off, according to court records.
Another police dashcam shows Turner, Martin, Henderson and the K-9 assaulting Fox while he yells “I’m not hitting y’all.” The dog then bit Foxx’s leg. He was treated at UT Medical Center.
Foxx was again charged with drug free school zone, possession of drug paraphernalia, assault and resisting stop, frisk, halt, and arrest.
During a preliminary hearing before Charles Cerny, the judge opined that “Turner ran afoul of the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure when Turner continued to detain Foxx without probable cause to allow time for a K-9 officer to show up to search Foxx’s car in April 2014.
“Judge Cerny also found officer Turner’s testing regarding the open air smell of marijuana to be unbelievable,” and that no marijuana was ever found, documents state.
“The City of Knoxville, through its officials, has displayed open support for the conduct of its police officers,” Foxx’s attorney, Philip Lomonaco wrote in the complaint. “(KPD) has failed to properly train, supervise and discipline them. The history of the officers as it relates to Mr. Foxx and others is replete with inaction. When confronted with these actions and inactions, Chief Rausch did not show anything but full support for these activities.”
Foxx is seeking $2.5 million in compensatory damages and another $2.5 million in punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees.