published Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Man seeks $400,000 from City of Chattanooga after tussle with police officers

A man has filed a lawsuit against the Chattanooga Police Department seeking $400,000 in damages after he said he had to undergo surgery to repair his rotator cuff after police handcuffed him for trying to take pictures of a crime scene.

According to a lawsuit filed in federal court, Greg Luther said he was standing on his front porch in St. Elmo on Dec. 4 and was about to take pictures of a car crash that damaged his fence and retaining wall. That's when Officer Brian Blumenberg yelled to him that he could not take photos because it was a crime scene.

A second officer, Casey Cleveland, is also named in the lawsuit because he assisted Blumenberg.

Luther said he wanted to take pictures for insurance purposes and asked Blumenberg why he couldn't take photos from his porch.

Blumenberg told internal affairs officers that Blumenberg left his porch to take photos.

"Officer Blumenberg said he realized that Mr. Luther could be walking on potential evidence by being outside his residence and this concerned him," an internal affairs report states. "Officer Blumenberg also said he saw Mr. Luther stepping off his porch and appeared to start taking pictures of the vehicles involved in the fatality."

"When I asked to speak to a supervisor, he threw me to the ground," Luther said in an interview. The camera was never turned on, he said.

Luther said he was held in the back of a patrol car for an hour and a half and then released.

As a result of the incident, Luther said his shoulder was injured and he had to undergo surgery. It took six months for him to recover, Luther said.

"Officer Blumenberg said he apologized to Mr. Luther again about his shoulder and told Mr. Luther that he was not trying to hurt him," the report states.

Investigators in internal affairs offered for the city to pay for Luther's initial doctor's visit because at the time he had no health insurance. He declined the offer.

Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd declined to comment because of pending litigation.

Internal affairs did not sustain a violation of excessive force against Blumenberg. He was cited for improper procedure and received a letter of reprimand.

"I never did anything wrong," Luther said. "He should have never touched me, much less injured me."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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