The Fort Campbell soldier who claimed Hopkinsville police brutalized him during a 2008 arrest, by needlessly shocking him twice with a Taser, received a $100,000 settlement from the city’s insurance company this month.
The company, Kentucky League of Cities, made the decision to settle, said Hopkinsville City Attorney Doug Willen. The settlement did not require the city to admit wrongdoing on the part of the three officers involved.
The soldier, Steven G. Toon, received $45,000 for his medical bills and his pain and suffering. Another $45,000 covered his attorney’s fees, and the remainder reimbursed Toon for other expenses, according to the settlement agreement.
The attorneys agreed not to disclose the settlement details, but the New Era obtained a copy of the agreement from the city by filing a Kentucky Open Records Act request.
J. David Cole Jr., a Bowling Green attorney who represented Toon, said the settlement amount satisfied him.
“I’ve never seen anyone get that much for being Tased,” Cole said. “I’ve researched it.”
Cole hopes the case’s outcome will inspire HPD to take measures against future acts of “police misconduct.”
However, Willen said that based on his understanding of the case, he doesn’t think HPD needs to make any changes. He doesn’t believe the officers committed wrongdoing, he said.
Further, two of the patrolmen involved — Jay Phelps and Brandon Tedford — have resigned since the 2008 arrest, for reasons apparently unrelated to the lawsuit.
Stacey Blankenship, a Paducah attorney whom KLC hired on the city’s behalf, declined comment.
Toon lived in Clarksville, Tenn., in March 2008. He was 33. He belonged to the U.S. Army and had served overseas, according to court records. He remains in the Army.
According to court documents, the lawsuit stems from an incident on March 7, 2008. Toon was at his friend Timothy Shepard’s house on Sivley Road, and a neighbor called 911 to report them driving down the street without lights.
Phelps responded to the call. Two more officers, Tedford and Michael Felts, arrived while Phelps was giving Toon sobriety tests.
Phelps said Toon failed the tests, and Toon later admitted he drank that night.
Phelps and Tedford held Toon’s arms behind his back and pinned him to the cruiser, according to the lawsuit. Toon claims they slammed his face against the hood, but the video does not clearly show how much force the officers used, a judge noted in a court document.
Felts came around the cruiser and fired his Taser into Toon’s chest, according to court records. Toon fell to the ground, outside the camera’s range. Phelps told Felts to shock Toon again, so Felts shocked him in either the chest or the leg. Their testimonies differ on this point.
Phelps claimed he gave the command because Toon wouldn’t let the officers hold his wrists back.
Phelps arrested Toon on charges of DUI, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Toon refused to let hospital officials test his blood, and a Breathalyzer test did not produce results.
Toon spent two days in jail. A jury later found him not guilty on all counts.
Toon sued the city and the three officers in federal court in March 2009. He accused the officers of fabricating the charges and said Felts stunned him for no reason. He asked for an unspecified amount of money to compensate for his pain and punish the defendants.
Cole claimed the officers intentionally caused Toon emotional distress, violated Toon’s constitutional right to liberty by putting him in jail, used excessive force and committed assault. Cole also accused the city of failing to train the officers properly. Federal Judge Thomas Russell, who presides at the courthouse in Paducah, later dismissed all of these claims except those of excessive force and assault.
Before the settlement, attorneys conducted formal negotiations with the help of a professional mediator. Though Cole said he couldn’t disclose details about this particular case, he said a magistrate judge usually serves as mediator.
The city planned to send a single $100,000 check to Cole’s office, according to the agreement.
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