published Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Suit settled against CHA officer

A 2009 federal lawsuit filed by a public housing resident against a Chattanooga Housing Authority police officer was settled during a brief pretrial meeting Friday.

Crystal Ramsey filed a lawsuit seeking $200,000 against the Chattanooga Housing Authority, the city and police officers for both entities after CHA Officer James Avery “slapped her on the side of her face” to knock a phone out of her hand, according to court documents.

Ramsey’s attorney, Michael Raulston, and CHA attorney Paul Krivacka attended a final pre-trial meeting in federal court Friday. They spoke together privately for less than 10 minutes, then confirmed the case had been settled.

Neither would discuss details of the case or the settlement, including whether financial compensation was included.

On Thursday, Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier dismissed CHA officer Robert Zendejas, Chattanooga officer D. Rawson and the city from the lawsuit.

Collier ruled that the trial would take place July 11 and said only charges of excessive force and “intentional infliction of emotional distress” would be considered against Avery.

Ramsey filed the original complaint in Hamilton County Circuit Court in July 2009. Her attorney moved the case to federal court that September.

Her complaint alleged that on Aug. 2, 2008, she was in her CHA apartment when she heard a loud noise and looked outside to see that Avery had a juvenile bent over the hood of her car.

She got scared and called 911.

When Avery heard her asking for a Chattanooga police officer, the complaint states, he “threw the minor’s money that he had in his hand on the ground and ran up on [Ramsey’s] porch and slapped her on the side of her face where the phone was knocked to the ground.”

Avery asked Ramsey why she called the police, and she told him “the situation had gotten out of hand,” according to the complaint.

The officer responded that “he was the police and he could do whatever he wanted to do,” the complaint stated.

Avery returned to the minor and Ramsey picked up the phone and called 911 again. Then Avery came back, slapped the phone away and said “there was no reason to call 911, that he, Avery, was the police ‘out here.’”

Later Avery threatened to have Ramsey evicted, the complaint stated.

Ramsey went into her home and shut the screen door. Avery opened the door and grabbed her by the arm and back of her neck, forcing her outside onto the concrete porch with his knee in her back.

Zendejas assisted in detaining her and putting her in the back of a police car. Sgt. D. Rawson arrived after Ramsey was in custody, the complaint stated.

A call to CHA police Chief Felix Vess was not returned Friday.

Raulston and Krivacka still must file paperwork officially asking that Collier dismiss the case to close it in the federal system.

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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01centare said...

But Avery remains a CHA police officer. Unless these bad apple officers are severely punished, even fired, there will continue to be abuses on their part and lawsuits. Was anything every done to Avery about that child he allegedly ran over and left the scene in East Lake that never got reported? I personally see nothing NOTHING positive law enforcement has done to help the poor minority community, unless one considers keeping them in poverty and without one or both parents a good thing. Why should there be a need for both a housing authority police department and city police department when city police usually end up arriving at the scene anyway? Another HUD waste of taxpayer's dollars. Those big salaries CHA officers receive for basically doing nothing could be put to better use of transforming poor citizens lives with jobs and other resources to help uplift them, and guarantee the next generation will be better off.

July 2, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.
fedup350 said...

With this article you are getting one side of the story. The side wanting to collect money. The side of someone living in the projects who is living off the backs of working people with the help of a civil liability attorney (again someone with a vested interest in monetary gain from this case) have put forth a story that is intended to make both of them money. The Officer is not allowed to publicly give his side of the story for legal reasons. Would any of you put yourself in this Officers place? He works in a thankless job for low pay in the public housing projects. The projects are full of people that hate the police and he risks his life on a daily basis for these same people. I seriously doubt, no I firmly believe that this incident did not happen as the alleged victim says. Why in the world would anyone want to be a Police Officer? I dont know why but every law abidding citizen should be thankful there are those still willing to do that job.

July 2, 2011 at 12:15 p.m.
sangaree said...

@He works in a thankless job for low pay in the public housing projects. The projects are full of people that hate the police and he risks his life on a daily basis for these same people.

  1. A "thankless job" many would do for free, no doubt. Just for the power and ego trip obtained.

  2. People who "hate" the police? If true, then the question is why the poor and people living in public housing "hate the polce?" Maybe because they are more likely than others in middle and upper middled class suburbs to be abused by them? Would you expect the molested child to "like" his/her molester? The abused "spouse" to continue to "love" and "respect" his/her abusive spouse? If abuse is not and should not be tolerated by the general population, it certainly should be tolerated in the hands of those who are suppose to serve and protect the rest of us from abuse. Who are suppose to be held to higher standards. After all, isn't that why they're allowed the "honor" to serve and protect the rest of us anyway? The fact that they ARE expected to be held to higher standards?

Many cops who end up as housing authority police have gotten into trouble elsewhere and have a spotty questionable record. They usually hide out as housing authority cops, where their actions are less likely to be questioned and citizens, fearing retaliation, are least likely to file a complaint, until things cool down.

July 2, 2011 at 1:27 p.m.
fedup350 said...

Yeah sanagree they really are abused by the housing, hundreds of dollars of free food stamp money, free pell grants for college, free high speed internet in some CHA projects, free public defenders when they are caught doing crimes. You really didnt comment on the original story, just the same old "oh please feel sorry for me and send me govt money, I cant make it on my own and its every ones fault but my own" story. That is really wearing thin with the working people.

July 2, 2011 at 2:02 p.m.
Salsa said...

Settling the case only means that the person doing the suing was eventually willing to settle for less money than the case would have cost the City if it had gone to trial (even if they won).

July 2, 2011 at 2:27 p.m.
brokentoe said...

Not necessarily, Salsa. The city's willingness to settle case could also mean the city stood to lose a lot more money of the case had gone to trial.

I'm not at all sure what HUD's intentions were when they decided to establish their own police force, with a chief of police and all. However, it does appear the decision has turned out to be nothing more than the place to hide cops turned rogue until the heat cools down when they get into trouble, and where other police forces that had hired them either couldn't or refuse to fire them . Sort of like teachers with tenure are difficult to get rid of until recently.

fedup, many people living in public housing have been known to pay more in rent and utilities than someone buying a house pays on a mortgage. That's a myth. Abuse is abuse. Just because someone might be receiving some kind of government assistance shouldn't require that they must accept abuse of any kind.

Would you feel the same way if a molested child was molested by someone considered a respected member of the community just because the victim was from the poorer side of the tracks? In essence, that's exactly what you're saying.

Furthermore, housing authority police, and not just in Chattanooga, has long held a reputation for retaliation against tenants who complained or filed a complaint where they'd attempt to get the tenants lease terminated, and the tenant kicked out of their apartment, or outspoken tenants whom they formed a dislike for.

July 2, 2011 at 4:23 p.m.
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