It happens every day: people see a news report about an arrest and automatically assume that the accused is guilty. In reality, police officers are human beings, too. They sometimes make mistakes, and in the worst cases, are sometimes dishonest and even violent when making arrests.
We read recently of a Tennessee police officer who was fired for lying and is now facing accusations in a federal civil rights lawsuit that he used excessive force when making an arrest for an alleged drug violation.
Fired Knoxville officer Geraldo Orta is a former University of Tennessee football player who had been on the force less than a year when he was fired for lying about whether he had responded to a burglar alarm in a bicycle store.
In May of last year, Orta caught a man apparently huffing gas duster behind a store. The man claims in his lawsuit that Orta hit him with a stun gun and stomped on his neck.
Orta denied both allegations when questioned by investigators. Knoxville officers do not wear bodycams and the dashcam in his cruiser was blocked by bushes behind the store from capturing video of the scene, though audio was recorded.
Orta has admitted that he had “sparked” his stun gun to scare the man, but insists he did not use the weapon on him. It should be noted that activating a stun gun before there is any struggle is a violation of Knoxville Police Department policy.
In the lawsuit, the man claims he was hospitalized for more than two weeks as a result of the encounter, and also had to undergo gall bladder surgery and get his pacemaker replaced.
Orta can be heard in the audio from the dashcam saying, "Get your (expletive) up. Get up. Get up before I make you get up.” He then told the man that he had “five seconds before I hit you with” the stun gun.
Moments later, the man says he can’t get up. “You hurt me,” he said to the former officer.
The case reinforces a lesson we have learned in Memphis: not every officer’s account is accurate, not every arrest is legitimate and not every cop lives up to standards.
Contact a Memphis criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and freedom.