published Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Dade County, Ga., inmate who led police on chase says deputies beat him (with video)

Escapee leads police on chase to Dayton, Tenn.
Walter Gann, a Dade County Sheriff's office trustee, escaped Thursday from a work detail and led police on chase to Dayton, Tenn. This patrol car video shows Rhea County Sheriff's office Charlie Jenkins attempting to stop Gann.

A Dade County, Ga., inmate who led police on a 65-mile chase across the Tennessee line on Thursday says he was beaten, kicked and slammed into a police car by Rhea County sheriff's deputies.

Walter Gann, 36, who was working as a Dade County Sheriff's Office trusty, escaped last week when he stole a public works truck. Sheriff's deputies chased him into Tennessee. When Gann reached Dayton, Tenn., Rhea County Deputy Charlie Jenkins joined the chase.

A patrol car video shows Jenkins speed past Gann. The officer and Gann weave in and out of cars on Highway 60, and Gann slams into the side of the patrol car. Jenkins tries to block Gann, but fails.

"All our units back off," the patrol car's radio squawks.

Jenkins continues for several miles before stopping in a field.

Gann wrote in a document obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he surrendered after a Graysville, Tenn., officer shot him with a stun gun. But two Rhea County deputies hit him in the face, kicked him in the ribs and between the legs while he was on the ground, Gann wrote.

An arrest report by Officer Brian Crowe states that after Graysville officers had Gann on the ground, both Rhea County and Dade County sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene.

Graysville Police Chief Erik Redden said an internal investigation into Gann's complaint found that Graysville officers hadn't been involved in the use of force. But he found evidence that Gann's complaint is true.

Redden said Crowe drove Gann to a hospital, where X-rays and CAT scans of his ribs and pelvic area were performed.

He said the internal affairs findings have been turned over to city recorder Michelle Horton, who will talk with the city attorney about how to proceed. Redden declined further comment.

Rhea County Sheriff's Det. Mike Bice, who was one of the officers on the scene, said he had not heard about Gann's complaint. He said when he arrived in the field where police had captured Gann, he was lying face down with his hands underneath him.

"He was not physically abused other than he got electricity put in his body," Bice said.

Bice said he believes Gann was taken to the hospital because the Taser gun prongs were stuck in his body.

Bice's supervisors, Rhea County Sheriff Mike Neal and Chief Deputy John Argo, are on vacation this week. Employees said Tuesday that neither could be reached for comment.

Mike Taylor, 12th Judicial district attorney general, said he hasn't received a use of force complaint from Gann or any law enforcement official.

"If I get a complaint from Gann or his lawyer, I'll follow normal procedure and have the TBI look into it," he said.

Gann faces felony charges of evading arrest, reckless endangerment and theft of property in connection with the incident.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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