A federal court suit filed by a Mountain Home man alleging two Baxter County deputy sheriffs used unnecessary and excessive force in trying to bring him under control has been settled.
While Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery was not at the scene of the incident that took place in early September 2018, he was included in the suit since he has the ultimate authority over the deputies and is responsible for ensuring they are trained properly.
Attorneys representing 49-year-old Kenny Gipson Jr. filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in early July last year. It was alleged Gipson’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
The terms of the agreement will not be made public, since both parties agreed to seal the document.
According to information in the lawsuit, deputies were called to a residence along Justin Lane in response to a 911 call made just after 10:30 a.m. by Gipson’s mother. She is alleged to have said she needed help with her son who had “mental and drug problems.”
She was asked if she wanted an ambulance or law enforcement and was reported to have replied, “Well, maybe both.”
When the deputies arrived, they met with Gipson’s mother. She reportedly told them her then 47-year-old son was in his bedroom “huffing” canned air duster. According to the incident report, the mother is reported to have said her son had been “very aggressive” toward her when she tried to take the canister away from him. She said she was fearful he would be even more belligerent and aggressive when he discovered she had called for help.
The mother is also alleged to have told the deputies her son might be suicidal.
In an affidavit filed in her son’s case in mid-July, Gipson’s mother denies her son displayed aggressive behavior toward her on the day of the incident. In fact, she claims her son “has never been verbally or physically abusive or aggressive toward me.”
She says she told one of the deputies who came to her home in answer to the 911 call “that I did not want my son arrested. I wanted him taken to the hospital for treatment.”
As one of the deputies talked to Gipson, he is reported to have “huffed the can another six-or-eight-times.” The deputy said when he warned Gipson he could die from inhaling the contents, the Mountain Home man allegedly replied that was his goal.
Each time Gipson inhaled the can’s contents, he is reported to have nearly passed out. A deputy on the scene said he waited for Gipson to approach unconsciousness and then snatched the can out of his hands.
After the deputy told Gipson he was either going to the hospital for treatment or to jail, he was reported to have jumped off the bed, rushed past the two law officers and headed into the garage area of the home.
He then moved outside toward the street in front of the residence.
The deputies allege Gipson was aggressive, and he shoved one of them aside as he left his bedroom.
In filings made in the federal court lawsuit, the deputies also allege Gipson took a swing at one of them.
In the affidavits filed by mother and son, there is a denial that Gipson became aggressive toward the deputies in any way. He claims he left the house and went outside because he felt that is where an ambulance to take him to the hospital might be parked.
The mother contends in her affidavit that neither deputy on scene at the time ordered her son to halt. She said he “was not in any way being aggressive or threatening” toward the two deputies.
In the probable cause affidavit, it is alleged because of the possibility of Gipson making an escape on foot or in a vehicle in his condition, the deputies decided the time had come to stop him.
The deputies contend they made “repeated verbal commands” ordering Gipson to halt.
One deputy fired a Taser at Gipson, and the second deputy made an “independent decision” to fire his Taser at Gipson almost at the same instant. The prongs from both Tasers hit Gipson in the back. He is reported to have done a “nearly complete” 180-degree turn, falling face up and hitting the back of his head on the driveway.
One deputy said he had never seen a person tased fall in that manner.
In the lawsuit, the deputy stated the normal reaction would have been for Gipson to go to his knees and fall forward in his direction of travel, not twirl and fall on his back.
It was reported Gipson was knocked out when his head hit the concrete driveway.
EMTs were able to bring him around, and he was said to have resisted to the point it took four deputies and a paramedic to subdue him, even after two injections of a sedative were administered. When he was finally under control, Gipson was taken to Baxter Regional Medical Center for treatment and later transferred to St. Vincent Hospital in Little Rock.
According to the lawsuit, Gipson was in the ICU and on a ventilator at St. Vincent for 30 days. He was removed from the ventilator and given a tracheotomy. He was fed through a stomach tube.
The mother contends she called 911 to “get my son medical help and instead the officers took aggressive and unnecessary actions” resulting in him suffering traumatic brain injuries. She also charged that, “Rather than help my son,” the deputies “used excessive force and permanently injured him.”
Lawyers representing Gipson allege their client suffered brain damage, and surgeons had to remove a large portion of his skull.
The suit alleges the “gross misconduct” of the deputies led to Gipson suffering physical injury. The force used against Gipson was “unnecessary and unreasonable” and a violation of his constitutional rights, the lawsuit alleged.
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