LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kentucky State Police trooper beat a handcuffed schizophrenic man after arresting him in March 2019, slamming his head against a wall, and punching and kicking him repeatedly before throwing him to the ground, according to video from a jail recording system.
The footage sheds light on a Bowling Green case that left the beaten man, Timothy “Michael” Heston, in jail for 11 months because state police withheld the video, a new lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit claims State Police Trooper Aaron Tucker “attacked Michael, who is bi-racial, without provocation, warning or justification and then fabricated a report about the assault.”
Heston spent nearly a year in jail; police failed to provide the video to prosecutors, defense attorneys or the judge, according to the suit. The charges were later dismissed.
The lawsuit, filed in March in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green, lists Tucker, other unnamed State Police troopers, Warren County Regional Jail and two jail employees as plaintiffs.
The suit also claims jail employees placed Heston in a restraint chair and repeatedly tased him for no reason. Two jail employees, Melissa Causey and Andrew Cooper, are accused of “tasing a restrained, mentally-ill individual … out of dislike for his demeanor.”.
The lawsuit includes a picture of Heston being tased while he is in a restraint chair.
The jail’s warden didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tucker wrote in a citation that he arrested Heston after observing him walking on the side of Interstate 65 in Warren County; Heston allegedly threatened the trooper when he stopped to talk to him, according to court records.
When the trooper took Heston to jail on charges of terroristic threatening and resisting arrest, among other charges, Heston “tensed up” when he was taken out of the cruiser, resisted, attempted to spit on Tucker and “used his head to hit me,” according to the arrest citation.
“After the altercation had ensued, I was able to regain control of the above offender by placing him on the ground,” Tucker wrote.
But in the video, obtained by WDRB News, Tucker gets Heston out of the cruiser and, after walking him to the door, Heston seems to weave or stumble and the trooper punches him in the face, pins him against the wall and hits him with his fist several more times. Tucker also knees the defendant in the face and chest several times before taking him to the ground, the video shows. Heston was handcuffed behind his back.
There is no sound in the video and it does not appear Heston was resisting. It is unclear if Heston spit on or toward the trooper.
“Michael was definitely not the instigator nor was he able to physically protect himself from the physical assault Officer Tucker inflicted upon him,” said attorney Amy Staples, who represents Heston along with Elliot Slosar. The video “took my breath away.”
She said Heston did not spit at the trooper but, regardless, “I don’t think anything justifies physically attacking a mentally ill, handcuffed, restrained individual.”
State Police conducted an internal investigation of the case and fired Tucker, according to the lawsuit. KSP confirmed that Tucker is no longer employed but did not comment on the lawsuit. The charges against Heston, 27, were eventually dismissed, but not until after he had been indicted.
The lawsuit claims State Police initially withheld the video from the prosecution, the defense, and the judge, causing him to remain in jail until the case was ultimately dismissed.
Heston was “actively psychotic” while in jail so was unable to participate in his defense, Staples said.
Heston’s defense attorney found the video after receiving discovery material from the jail in preparation for trial.
Slosar, who has several pending lawsuits against State Police, said “at this time no form of conduct these troopers commit is shocking.”
Heston, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 20, was walking along I-65 in Bowling Green on March 17, 2019, attempting to get to Tennessee for his son’s birthday, according to the lawsuit.
When stopped by Tucker and asked why he was walking on the interstate, Heston allegedly cursed and threatened the officer and resisted arrest, according to the police report.
After being taken to jail, Tucker escorted Heston toward the door of the jail and Heston stumbled as he stepped up on a curb, according to the lawsuit.
“Instead of steadying Michael, Defendant Tucker forcefully threw him in a corner against the wall,” the suit claims. “Immediately thereafter, Defendant Tucker began brutally attacking Michael, who was handcuffed and unable to defend himself.”
The suit claims the trooper struck Heston in the face with a pair of steel-toed boots that Heston had been carrying when arrested.
The assault ended when correctional officers “heard a thud” and came out to the sally port, assisting Tucker in “restraining” Heston by holding him down on the concrete floor, the suit claims.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
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