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Tenn. Police Silent About Excessive Force Complaint

Associated Press Writer

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Police aren't talking about their 2-week-old internal affairs investigation of excessive force in a case where prosecutors have dropped most of the charges.

"I don't have anything I can tell you," said Chattanooga police Capt. Mark Rawlston, head of internal affairs.

Police Chief Steve Parks restricted duties of two officers in late October after seeing a convenience store surveillance video that shows a stun gun may have been used on a handcuffed man arrested following a Sept. 11 chase.

A Georgia State Patrol car camera with audio capability recorded officers shouting expletives at Matthew T. Jones, 22, of Cohutta, Ga., and Jason A. McCollum, 26, of Dalton, Ga., after the chase.

The video was reviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Freeze ..." is the first audible word spoken by officers who encircle the two men in a convenience store parking lot. After that, the audio portion of the tape records whimpering, followed by one suspect saying, "I ain't done nothing. I ain't done nothing."

"Uh. Huh," an unidentified officer replies on the tape. "Look at what this man did to you. Did you want an (expletive) whipping?"

Another surveillance camera atop a convenience store also recorded the arrests but without sound.

Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox has dropped charges of resisting stop, disorderly conduct and public intoxication against McCollum, the passenger. Jones, who was driving, pleaded guilty to evading arrest, but charges of assaulting police and resisting stop were dismissed.

McCollum, who reported suffering scratches and bruises when he was arrested, has filed a $3.3 million federal lawsuit contending Georgia and Chattanooga authorities beat him.

Parks said the department's internal affairs division was working to identify all officers and police agencies involved in the arrests after the chase from northwest Georgia. The names of the two officers who were placed on limited duties have not been released and there is no change in the officers' employment status, Parks said.

Jones could face more charges in Georgia but no court date has been set.

The 23-minute video recorded on an in-dash camera began with a traffic stop in Ringgold, Ga., at 2:39 a.m.

Trooper Earnest Bonaparte III walked to the driver's door, and Jones sped off. The trooper attempted to ease Jones off the road, according to the tape. The driver braked several times but continued on Interstates 75 and 24.

Several Chattanooga police officers joined the chase, and at 2:52 a.m. the truck pulled into the convenience store parking lot.

The video from the car-mounted camera showed a quick image of one of the truck occupants dropping to the ground. The convenience store's surveillance video released earlier this month showed several unidentified officers kicking and appearing to use a stun gun on McCollum.

Arresting officer Larry Gregory filed a brief report that stated McCollum "refused all verbal commands to lay down on the ground."

The report said McCollum was "Maced and possibly contact Tasered by an unknown officer." A Taser is a brand of stun gun.

The tape shows McCollum tried to roll over and two unidentified officers kicked him.

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