The Chattanooga Police Department apologized Tuesday for arresting a man who ran two red lights while rushing his wife to the hospital.
The apology came after all seven charges filed against Eric Jesse Wright were dropped by the Hamilton County district attorney’s office.
“We deeply regret this incident has occurred and hope to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Wright at their earliest convenience to discuss the events of June 16,” said Lt. Kim Noorbergen, spokeswoman for the department.
The Wrights plan to meet today at noon with interim police Chief Mark Rawlston, said the couple’s friend and spokeswoman Laura Goggans. They will be bringing legal counsel, she said.
On June 16, Mr. Wright said, he believed his wife, Aline, was suffering from a possible stroke and rushed her to Erlanger hospital, running two red lights on the way and catching the attention of Officer James Daves.
After arriving at the hospital, Officer Daves approached Mr. Wright and told him he was going to be arrested. Mr. Wright, 27, eventually was charged with seven crimes including assault on police, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, felony evading arrest, registration expired and two counts of traffic signals violations. He was booked into the Hamilton County Jail and released on bond.
Under Tennessee’s Necessity Law, however, Mr. Wright’s need to reach the hospital overrode the laws he was charged with breaking, according to the motion filed by the DA’s office to drop the charges.
The police department agreed with that decision, Lt. Noorbergen said.
Mrs. Wright, 22, stayed in the hospital for a few days after the incident, she said. She is a cancer survivor whose left leg was amputated above the knee and who suffers from a heart condition as a result of previous chemotherapy.
Both Wrights work at Erlanger. She is an emergency room nurse; he is a nurse technician who served as a medic in Iraq with the U.S. Army.
Officer Daves was placed on paid administrative leave while the police department’s internal affairs division investigates the incident, officials have said. The investigation will continue at the direction of interim Chief Rawlston, Lt. Noorbergen said.
Any further action by the Wrights is “going to depend on how the DA responds to Officer Daves,” Mrs. Goggans said. “If they just give him a slap on the wrist, then the Wrights will file a complaint.
THE NECESSITY DEFENSE
Under Tennessee law, conduct that otherwise would be criminal is justified if it is immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm. Moreover, the need to avoid harm must outweigh the harm to society or the interests of others brought about through the defendant’s act.
“The Wrights don’t wish Officer Daves any ill will and don’t want revenge on him,” she said. “They just want others to be able to get the hospital care they need without fear of obstruction.”
While Mrs. Wright spoke about the incident last week, since then the couple hasn’t spoken in public. Mrs. Goggans said the Wrights were shocked by what happened and want to be careful with any legal ramifications that might arise if they were to speak in public.
With the charges dropped, the Wrights plan to meet with their lawyers to “review everything to make sure it’s all clear,” she said.
And Mrs. Wright still has medical problems, Mrs. Goggans said.
“Aline is not 100 percent better; she still has numbness on the left side of her body,” she said.
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