Kentucky pays man beaten by state police $130,000 to settle lawsuit
Cellphone videos and statements from eyewitnesses show officers kicking and punching Lewis Lyttle, including while he was handcuffed.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Harlan County man has been paid $130,000 to settle a lawsuit filed against several Kentucky State Police troopers who kicked and struck him – including while he was handcuffed – during a 2016 arrest.
Troopers testified or wrote in reports that Lewis Lyttle did not follow orders, became combative and assaulted officers as they tried to arrest him outside a hospital on Aug. 1, 2016.
But cellphone videos and more than a dozen sworn statements from eyewitnesses painted a different picture, and were the focus of a wrongful arrest and assault lawsuit against police.
In an internal investigation, state police concluded in July that one of the officers used excessive force and he was suspended four months and demoted.
The lawsuit was settled on Oct. 30, according to court records.
Kentucky State Police denied an open records request for a copy of the settlement on Jan. 10, saying no settlement existed and “any documents related to a possible settlement is protected by attorney-client privilege.”
However, WDRB News obtained records of the settlement from the Kentucky State Treasurer. A check to Lyttle was dated Dec. 15.
A message left for the KSP official who denied WDRB’s open records request was not immediately returned.
Lyttle’s attorney, David Ward, said the “matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.” As part of the settlement, Ward said he could not say anything else.
On the day of the incident, Lyttle left his home in St. Charles, Virginia, to drive his neighbor to Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital because she was having problems with chronic bronchitis.
Someone called police to complain that Lyttle was exposing himself in the hospital parking lot.
When the first witness video begins, Lyttle can be seen sitting on the ground, his hands already handcuffed behind his back as Trooper Jimmy Halcomb and KSP Sgt. Rob Farley hover over him.
In an instant, Farley reaches down and slaps Lyttle across the face, sending him to the pavement.
The woman who filmed the incident on her smartphone from an office overlooking the parking lot and those watching with her can be heard gasping after Lyttle is struck.
“He had no business smacking him in the face,” one woman can be heard saying on the video.
“I bet that’s part of the movie, reckon?” another said, talking about a crew filming in Harlan at the same time.
A second witness, also using a smartphone, captured what happened next.
The officers pick Lyttle up and uncuff him. Farley stands in front of Lyttle and Halcomb behind him. Then, two other KSP officers arrive.
Because the video was filmed inside an office building, it was unclear what was said between Lyttle and the officers, but Lyttle doesn't appear to make any aggressive movements toward them.
Unlike some local departments such as Louisville Metro, state police do not equip their officers with body cameras to record their interactions with the public.
After about 30 seconds, Farley reaches out and grabs Lyttle by his beard, knees him in the stomach and yanks him to the ground.
As Lyttle lies on the pavement, Farley punches him while another officer kicks him, the video shows.
“They are just punching him, beating the s--- out of him,” said the man recording the incident from the window of a nearby building. “Four cops for one man, and as old as he is.”
The officers then handcuffed Lyttle, again, and arrested him.
Prosecutors dismissed the felony charges in January 2017, based on evidence that came to light after Lyttle was indicted. That evidence included the two cellphone videos of the incident and 16 sworn statements by witnesses who said Lyttle was the one assaulted.
In February 2017, eight months after the arrest, state police launched an investigation, eventually finding Farley used excessive force. He was suspended for 120 days and demoted from sergeant to trooper.
Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved. Reporter Travis Ragsdale contributed to this story.