Knoxville, TN — A couple is suing the city of Knoxville after three officers with the city's police department arrested and assaulted them for retreating into their house when police arrived to respond to a call about a domestic dispute.
On June 13, 2019, Knoxville police were called to the home of John Gorghis and his wife, Kelli, but there are very few details about what caused the initial complaint. When police arrived on the scene, the couple attempted to run inside and shut the door before officers could make it inside. John tried to shut the door as the officers approached, but he ended up slamming Officer Preston Tucker's fingers in the door in the process. This likely set the officers off.
Tucker then pushed his way into the home and assaulted John, slamming his face onto the ground before handcuffing him and then throwing him in the back of another officer's police car. The officers on the scene also decided that Kelli should be arrested as well.
John Gorghis would be held in the back of the cruiser for over 20 minutes before police randomly decided to inflict punishment on him. Tucker removed John from the police car, threw him to the ground again while he was still handcuffed, and then the officers teamed up to put him in a chokehold. This part of the encounter was captured on dash and body camera footage.
The officers claim that they were trying to get a picture of John's face because it was injured in the initial scuffle, but he allegedly refused by putting his hands in front of his face. To prevent him from blocking his face, the officers said that they needed to readjust his handcuffs.
As he was being pulled out of the car, John pleaded with the officers and expressed his confusion with the situation.
"Officer, I have the most respect for you and your profession. I don't know why you all are doing this to me!" John shouted.
In the video, John can also be heard shouting "Choke me out!? Choke me out!? I got all these bruises on me now. Why are you holding my nose? Why are you holding my nose? I don't understand this. What the (expletive) did I do? What did I do? You have cuffs on me."
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Patrick Looper, the Gorghis' attorney, says that Officer Matthew Speiser choked John and tried to hold his nose to further restrict his breathing.
"We will be filing a motion to amend our complaint. After reviewing the video several times, it would appear that Officer Speiser was the officer who was choking my client and not Officer Tucker," Looper wrote in an email to KnoxNews.
Later the charges against the couple were dismissed, and they followed up with a lawsuit against the town and the officers involved. The videos of the incident also showed that officers on the scene attempted to tamper with the footage by turning off their microphones at times during the incident.
Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland said no internal affairs investigation was conducted, and that no officers were disciplined.
Capt. Tony Willis defended the officers in a statement, suggesting that their actions were entirely legal and justified.
"I reviewed the in-car videos of the above incident and discovered that the involved officers were calm and professional throughout the encounter, including their demeanor after the subject was in custody," Willis Wrote.
As you watch the video below, imagine what kind of person it takes to justify treating someone like this. This is why people are in the street.