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Tennessee County Settles Jail Prisoner’s Excessive Use of Force Claim for $160,000

by Douglas Ankney

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee has agreed to pay Timothy Warren $110,000 in damages for injuries he suffered at the county jail, plus an additional $50,000 in attorney’s fees.

On New Year’s Eve 2013, Warren was arrested and booked into the Davidson County jail. Video footage showed him consenting to a pat-down search. He was then told to sit down. While walking toward the chair, he turned around toward guard Jeremi Snipes. Snipes punched Warren in the face, knocking him to the ground, and jailer Alona Williams held him to the floor with her knee on his head while she sprayed him in the face with a chemical spray. 

Guard John Hayes held Warren’s upper body down while Sergeant Sean Lloyd grabbed his legs and repeatedly slammed them to the floor. Warren was then restrained and placed in a seclusion cell, where he was denied medical treatment for almost two hours. When staff finally determined he needed medical attention, he was transported to a hospital where he was found to have multiple injuries that included a broken fibula, a dislocated ankle, facial lacerations and a broken ankle that required surgery.

Snipes and Hayes filed disciplinary reports, claiming Warren had sustained his ankle injuries before Snipes punched him. Sergeant Scott Satterly filed a Use of Force Report (UFR) in which he stated Warren “possibly injured his ankle as he walked into intake.” However, chief of security Jamie Johnson later amended the UFR, stating, “This use of force does not appear to be in compliance with Davidson County Sheriff’s Office policy or procedure. This needs to be reviewed by HR.”

Snipes was ultimately suspended for five days, but due to a procedural error the suspension was never put into place.

“We had some issues in our internal systems where our systems failed,” stated Tony Wilkes, chief of corrections for the Sheriff’s Office. “Since that time, we’ve made some internal changes to insure those kinds of failures don’t happen again in the future.”

Warren filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging claims of excessive use of force by the guards and inadequate staff training. He also raised supplemental state law negligence claims under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, T.C.A. § 29-20-101, et seq.

The settlement was reached in January 2019. Aggravated assault charges remain pending against Snipes and Lloyd, who are free on $2,500 bonds. Warren was represented by the Nashville law firm of Raybin & Weissman. See: Warren v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:14-cv-02373. 


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Related legal case

Warren v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County