A Tennessee grand jury returned an indictment on September 5, 2017 that charged a former deputy with the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) with using a stun gun to assault a pre-trial detainee at the county jail.
Jordan E. Norris, 19, was arrested in November 2016 on drug and weapons possession charges. On November 5, he apparently suffered a mental health episode and began banging his head against the door of his holding cell. He was removed from the cell and placed in a restraint chair, but was able to free one arm. That’s when CCSO Deputy Mark Bryant, 39, used a Taser on Norris – at least four times for a total of 50 seconds, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).
“I’ll keep on doing that until I run out of batteries,” Bryant said during the incident, which was captured on surveillance video.
District Attorney General Ray Crouch turned the video over to TBI agents, whose report prompted him to convene a grand jury that returned the indictment. It charged Bryant with four counts of aggravated assault and one count of official misconduct.
Sheriff Mike Breedlove initially defended the actions of Bryant and two other deputies involved in Norris’ arrest, posting on CCSO’s Facebook page that it left him so “shocked with awe” that he “peed a little bit.”
“Great job Cheatham SWAT!” the sheriff added.
But after the video of Bryant using the Taser on Norris was released, the post was deleted and the sheriff issued a statement in July 2017 claiming “not all video footage was presented [to me] at the time.” He fired Bryant, who had been placed on administrative leave. The other two CCSO deputies, Josh Marriott and Jeff Key, remain on administrative leave while their involvement in the incident is investigated.
Meanwhile, Norris – whose father counted more than 40 Taser burns on his son’s body, some just inches from his heart – filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging failure to protect and the use of excessive force “without legitimate law enforcement purpose.”
“The repeated and prolonged use of a Taser against a fully restrained person amounts to torture; the videos speak for themselves,” said Ben Raybin, one of Norris’ attorneys.
An advisory issued by Taser International in 2009 warned that its stun gun could cause arrhythmia – disruption of the heart’s rhythmic beating – and said law enforcement personnel should use Tasers on the back, pelvic muscles or thigh, not the chest. Another company advisory issued in 2013 said the stun gun “may not be effective on emotionally disturbed persons.”
A confidential settlement in the civil suit was reached in September 2017. See: Norris v. Bryant, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:17-cv-01067.
In January 2018, Ashland City Attorney Dan Cook withdrew as counsel for Bryant in the criminal case against the former deputy, citing “several conflicts of interest” that he said had created “serious ethical circumstances.” It was not immediately clear who will be representing Bryant at his trial, which is scheduled for July 2018.
Sources: The Tennessean, Washington Post, www.wsmv.com
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