Darrin Ring: FBI Investigates Taped Beating By Tennessee Police
The FBI has launched a criminal probe into a January incident where Tennessee police stripped a man naked, then kicked and beat him while he lay handcuffed in the snow.
The incident, recorded by a patrol car's dashboard camera, also reveals police repeatedly shocking the man, Darrin T. Ring, of New Johnsonville, Tenn., with a Taser and spraying him with pepper spray.
For nearly ten minutes, the video shows Ring writhing and screaming in pain as a gaggle of officers shout contradictory demands at him.
"If he even flinches, shoot his ass," one officer declares on the tape.
"Roll over on your belly!" another officer then yells.
Ring, 34, intoxicated but unarmed at the time, was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. Police had been responding to a report of gunshots in the area.
Ring's injuries from the assault included four broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Unable to make bail, Ring sat in jail for five months awaiting trial on the charges. Then in early July, his court-appointed defense attorney obtained the recording of his arrest and filed a motion requesting that the charges be dropped in light of the outrageous conduct of the officers.
In the motion, public defender Jake Lockert, a former state prosecutor, called the charges against Ring an attempt by the arresting officers -- with the Humphreys County Sheriffs' Department and the Waverly, Tenn., police department -- "to cover up their own criminal conduct."
On July 11, the district attorney prosecuting the case dismissed all charges against Ring and released him.
After the charges were dropped, the F.B.I and the Tennessee Department of Investigation began separate criminal probes into the incident.
The federal probe is examining the assault on Ring as a potential civil rights violation, Joel Siskovic, a spokesman for the FBI's Memphis office, told HuffPost. According to Siskovic, he Tennessee Department of Investigation is also examining the incident for possible violations of state law.
He added that both agencies were alerted to the matter after video of the police assault appeared on local television newscasts. WSMV Channel 4 Nashville was the first station to broadcast portions of the videotape, and the full 22-minute recording can be seen on the WSMV website.
"It was one of those unique situations where two law enforcement agencies both saw something that looked like horrific wrongdoing and jumped on it," Siskovic said.
Chris Davis, the Humphreys County sheriff, initially defended his officers' conduct, calling the video a "two-dimensional depiction" of the incident. "We feel our deputies will be shown to have conducted themselves as trained when all the facts come out," Davis said in a statement July 7.
In affidavits supporting the charges against Ring, arresting officers declared that Ring had fought wildly against police, kicked one officer in the groin and attempted to seize another officer's sidearm.
"I was in fear that the worst case scenario was going to happen until the city officer got there to help restrain him," wrote Deputy Benji Lee.
Once the state and federal investigations began, however, Davis placed the three Humphreys County deputies involved in the incident on administrative leave with pay.
Waverly Police Chief David Daniel confirmed that one of his officers was responsible for using the stun gun on Ring. That officer has been suspended without pay, he said.
"This department is cooperating with the investigation," Daniel told HuffPost. "I have been working closely with the FBI and the TBI to get to the bottom of it."
David Raybin, an attorney retained by Ring, told HuffPost that a lawsuit against the police agencies involved in the assault is in the works.
"The civil rights violations of my client were profound and absolutely unnecessary," said Raybin, a former criminal prosecutor. "What did Mr. Ring do to deserve that kind of treatment?"
Raybin said he had already gathered evidence indicating that senior officers, including Humphries County Sheriff Chris Davis and the sheriff's department's field training officer, were at the scene and did nothing to intervene.
Witness statements also suggest that Ring was beaten and tasered after being taken to jail, he said.
Raybin disputed police allegations that Ring attempted to seize an officer's handgun while being placed under arrest. "I've seen nothing in the videotape that suggests such a thing," he said.
He also took issue with the statement by Davis that officers had "conducted themselves as trained" during the incident. The fact that Ring's clothes were removed during the arrest was not consistent with any police procedure he was familiar with, he said.
"I've never had a client stripped naked by the police before," Raybin said. "There's something very odd about that."
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