published Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Couple contemplates lawsuit in arrest

A newlywed couple have met with police, received apologies and are happy with the result, but still may seek damages for their ordeal.

Married June 13, Eric and Aline Wright had a harrowing honeymoon last week when he rushed her to the hospital with strokelike symptoms.

Chattanooga police Officer James Daves, who saw Mr. Wright go through two red lights, followed him to the hospital and later had him arrested on seven counts, including one felony charge.

Since the June 16 incident, Mr. Wright bonded out of jail, was suspended from his work at Erlanger hospital, then reinstated with credit for the missed time. Mrs. Wright was released from the hospital Friday.

Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox dropped all charges against Mr. Wright on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, interim police Chief Mark Rawlston and Officer Daves met with and apologized to the couple for the incident.

Chief Rawlston said in a telephone interview that he thought the meeting went well and they discussed “ways we can prevent this from occurring in the future.”

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press Aline, left, and Eric Wright sit in their Signal Mountain home on Wednesday. The Wrights have not yet decided if they'll pursue legal action after Chattanooga Police Officer James Daves arrested Eric when he sped through traffic lights bringing Aline to Erlanger hospital while she was experiencing stroke-like symptoms on June 16.

Officer Daves was put on leave with pay and Chattanooga police began an internal affairs investigation that is ongoing.

The couple have retained a lawyer, Scott Maucere of Chattanooga, but have not decided “whether or not to pursue damages,” Mr. Wright said.

They said they don’t see how further punishment for Officer Daves would do any good and that a revised training policy or program for officers who face similar situations would be a better solution.

“It’s not going to repair anything that’s been broken,” Mr. Wright said.

About 11 p.m. June 16, three days after their wedding, Mrs. Wright started showing stroke symptoms at their Missionary Ridge home. She is an emergency room nurse at Erlanger and Mr. Wright is a former Army medic who now works at Erlanger as a nurse technician.

Knowing that delaying treatment for a stroke can cause irreparable brain damage, Mr. Wright drove his wife to Erlanger. Officer Daves saw the car run the lights and pursued.

Once at Erlanger, Mrs. Wright said Officer Daves was aggressive and told them that he would arrest her husband.

On Friday, Mr. Wright was arrested at the hospital and charged with felony evading arrest, assault on police, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, registration expired and two counts of traffic signal violation.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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Livn4life said...

I hope this dear couple will reconsider a lawsuit. I wish them the best but bringing more publicity to an unfortunate event would most likely not be helpful to them or to the department. I only hope that in the future any of us will consider two things in a similar instance to theirs: 1)911 is not a bad deal. 2)If pursued by law enforcement, think about ways you might let the officer/officers know you are in an emergency. While I do not agree with every approach law enforcement officials take, I highly respect the fact that they do try to protect and serve their communities. We need them and the risks they sometimes take.

June 24, 2010 at 7:36 a.m.
mrredskin said...

how hard would it have been to also dial 911 to let the dispatcher know what the situation was instead of endangering others en route to the hospital. lawsuit? be glad all charges were dropped. that's your win, bro.

June 24, 2010 at 7:55 a.m.
Salsa said...

I knew it wouldn't be long before some lawyer got involved looking for some easy money off the taxpayers.

June 24, 2010 at 7:59 a.m.
enufisenuf said...

I hope they make CPD pay something, they have been publicly paraded because of a cops overzealous actions and the city or thug squad should not get off so lightly as an apology.

mrredskin, if your loved one was in a critical situation, would your thoughts be about notifying a cop? I rather doubt it.

Livin, I suppose if your teen took your car and totaled it you would pat them on the head and say it's OK? Get real, when the cops become a liability and not an asset, they cannot be ignored.

June 24, 2010 at 8:47 a.m.
geraldc476 said...

It is very easy to sit back and express what the very frightened man "should" have done now that this is all over. But, what about the common sense that the officer could have taken once he saw the poor woman's face drooping (did you see the photos of her face, it looked at if her face was melting).

As a local businessman I can express that I am WELL in touch with the Chattanooga Police regularly and I have seen a lot of them in action. I think they should rethink their line of training. I was once walking down Market street minding my own business when two officers had a car pulled over. One of the cops turned around and started screaming "get back! who the F$@%@ do you think you are sneaking up on me? Get back!" and he had his hand on his gun. This was a pulled over car for speeding everything was calm and the offender was sitting in his own car. There was no call for this behavior. I laughed at him and told him exactly what I thought of him and his behavior. After he realized that I knew the other officer he tried to laugh it off and shake my hand - I refused it.

Let's face it, the Chattanooga police department has been in a state and national negative media light for quite a few years now. Something has to change before someone loses their life. Not all cops are bad but this city has some major problems with their departments from the top down.

I say take this department to court. Their behavior HAS to stop before someone really gets hurt.

June 24, 2010 at 8:52 a.m.
whatsnottaken said...

You look like you're suffering from your ordeal. Money for nothing that's what it's all about. If the guy would've had a gun and went into the hospital or otherwise caused trouble, the cop would've been blamed for that too. Man up, get on with your lives and stop trying to bilk the system.

June 24, 2010 at 8:52 a.m.
rrmurry said...

If you rush your wife to the hospital, knowing you could get her there faster than ambulance (since you both work in the medical field), you are obviously about doing the right thing, perhaps in the wrong way (running red lights, not calling 911).

The police officer also thought he was doing the right thing, perhaps in the wrong way (losing compassion for fear of what could be seen as irrational behavior).

Both parties were doing what they thought was right, perhaps in the wrong way.

Call it a truce, have Obama invite you to the White House for a beer, and let it go.

June 24, 2010 at 9:19 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

The worm turns, doesn't it? The Wrights had the near-unanimous support and sympathy of the public until this development, which makes it look like they're trying to profit financially from their 15 minutes of unfortunate fame. I'm in agreement with the first two commenters here, who said it better than I can. Lawsuits and monetary damages are intended to correct a situation where actual harm has been done. This was an embarrassing, scary episode, but what harm was done? Lawsuits shouldn't go into the "might-have" or "could-have" or "what-if" realm. There's an internal affairs office in the police department to deal with the officer, whose behavior is questionable, but, we should keep in mind, who did get the go-ahead on serving those warrants from his superiors two days later.

June 24, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.
geraldc476 said...

I am willing to bet that based upon their professional and humble demeanor that this couple will not sue the city. I think that they pushed off the question in a polite way and did not chose to expound on the question most likely asked by the reporter. Not all law suits are monetary based either (not saying that this particular one would or would not be).

As for what damages did they suffer? Look at what type of society we live in. People are more emotional and negative driven then fact driven in todays social circles (hell just take a look at some of the comments made here). People chose to spread negativity and mis-information rather than be positive and factual. The sure fact that he was arrested will cause someone (possibly) to do nothing but spread how much of a criminal he is rather than be completely factual and explain the mis-understanding. Possible? Yes. Probable? Who really knows?

Here is another fact for some of you; having the arrest taken off of his personal record is a long process. Once arrested and processed it goes into the TCIC and NCIC data base. It does not just "drop off" because they dropped the charges (rather it shows what you were arrested for and the court decision reads null process, not 'dropped' or 'mistake made he/she did nothing wrong, oops'.

He is now going to have to hire a lawyer to file the proper paperwork with the State of Tn and the local DA/ADA to have it expunged from his records. That will cost money and it will take months (if not years). Mean while, let's hope that he doesn't plan on having to find a job anytime soon (meaning that he isn't layed off due to the economy or something like that). In his field of expertise (medical) the HR departments (pre-interviewing process)do back ground checks. They do not ask questions if you have an arrest record you get no chance. The economy affords too many options to risk anything.

What would you REALLY do if this happened to you, or to your child? I bet a lot of these one sided remarks would be a hell of a lot different.

June 24, 2010 at 10:21 a.m.
memphisexile said...

The simple fact is that he broke the law. He may have had a good reason but that does not absolve him from obeying the law. You cannot allow exceptions because people have a sympathetic story. This is why you get your day in court. Is it inconvenient? Yes. Does it cost you money? Yes. Is it an ordeal? Yes. This is the system we have.

The law cannot play favorites.

I particularly enjoy how no one has sympathy for the officer who was doing his job and now is suspended (although with pay). He had no way of knowing what was going on. He saw a car driving recklessly and running red lights while not stopping as he pursued. He did his job. I also like how no one stops to think about the other people on the road whose lives were put in danger by this guy running red lights.

While I am happy he got to the hospital in time and his wife is safe, at the same time he broke the law. You can't break the law any time you want because you have a good reason.

June 24, 2010 at 11:38 a.m.
senyahc said...

Chattanooga and surround areas (East Ridge) have a horrible reputation. If you don't realize it... just call them with a problem. The only contact I ever had with the police was seeing them pooled together in parking lots.... cars running and they are just talking for hours. I had to call them when my car gets broken into... and the suspect is still in view at the mall's parking lot. Instead of chasing him? They want me to fill out a complaint or some BS. We could save a lot of tax dollars if we got rid of 75% of them. Obviously they do not have anything better to do than watch red lights.

June 24, 2010 at 12:01 p.m.
MachineWizard said...

I originally sided with the Wrights in this matter. Officer Daves over reacted. He and the Chief of Police realized this and appoligized. Now the Wrights are thinking about sueing. This is also wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right but two Wrights can make a wrong.

June 24, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.
truthhurtz said...

Come on people, so if I held up a pharmacy at gun point to get my diabetic wife/husband insulin should I not be held responsible? He broke the law and was lucky to have the charges dropped. His wife is fine NOW DROP IT!

June 24, 2010 at 12:51 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

The DA doesn't agree with you, Memphisexile.

June 24, 2010 at 1:03 p.m.
bren72488 said...

So this Wright guy runs red lights ( almost causing one accident ) and assaults Officer Daves , but yet Officer Daves is still in the wrong? Hmmm. . . . Seems to me Officer Daves showed GREAT restraint! I have heard some of the things this officer has been through and done throughout his days at the Chattanooga Police Dept. and he seems to be a true hero! Shame on the Dept. for not having his back. No wonder they cant keep officers! Keep up the good work Mr.Daves

June 24, 2010 at 1:21 p.m.
geraldc476 said...

Musicman375 thank you for pointing out a LEGAL fact.

June 24, 2010 at 1:35 p.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

Office Daves is a scumbag that should be fired for trying to stop this woman from medical treatment...This thug should be charged with attempted murder for his unthinkable action. Daves needs to get a job at Mcdees flipping hamburgers.

June 24, 2010 at 7:47 p.m.
MachineWizard said...

One thing I do see in the video is that Wright vehicle doesn't appear to slow to almost a stop like they claimed and ambulances do and is almost hit by the cruiser that appears to be traveling within the speed limit. A private vehicle going straight would have probably hit the Wright vehicle. They are lucky that the charges were dropped and even luckier that they weren't in a serious accident.

June 25, 2010 at 4:59 p.m.
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