(The Center Square) – A Knoxville attorney is planning to refile an amended version of a lawsuit that claims a Knoxville police officer choked a man who was handcuffed.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Patrick Looper, alleges Knoxville police used excessive force by tackling a handcuffed man to the ground and putting him in a chokehold even though he was not fighting with police. The incident was captured on dash cam video.
Looper is amending the lawsuit and will have to refile it after the initial suit named the wrong police officer who committed the chokehold.
Video shows the plaintiff, John Gorghis, who already was cuffed from the front being dragged out of the police car and thrown to the ground. Police can be heard telling him to get out of the car as he responds, “I’m trying to.” Police are then seen throwing him to the ground and putting him in a chokehold.
“You have cuffs on me … why are you pushing my face in the ground?” Gorghis can be heard saying. “God that hurts so bad. Please stop.”
In the video, police are heard telling Gorghis they took those actions because he would not let them take a photo of bruises on his face for a police report. A police officer can be heard saying police were trying to switch the handcuffs from the front to the back because he refused to let them take a picture of bruises on his face for the police report and was blocking his face from the camera. The officer said Gorghis, who was arrested after police were called about a domestic dispute, should have listened to them.
The lawsuit claims police violated Gorghis' Fourth Amendment right, which protects against excessive force, and his 14th Amendment right, which guarantees due process. The lawsuit claims the officer accused of the chokehold is liable for assault and the other officers are liable for other charges for not intervening.
Gorghis suffered physical injuries and substantial mental anguish, pain and suffering, according to the lawsuit. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
The Knoxville Police Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“Per department policy, the Knoxville Police Department will not comment on pending litigation,” Scott Erland, the public information officer for the department, told The Center Square.
The arrest happened about a year ago, but the suit was not filed until recently. Police brutality and excessive force have come under heavy criticism since George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. Protests, which in some cases have led to looting and rioting, have sprung up across the country as a result.