A federal judge ruled a lawsuit filed by Margaret Spradlin in Tennesee against Sullivan County and specific police officers involved in a standoff that resulted in her mobile home burning down can proceed, rejecting the argument that the cops should be granted qualified immunity.
In April 2011, police were trying to arrest Spradlin’s son, Junior, on murder charges when he led police on a chase that ended at his mother’s home. Junior is serving 40 years after being convicted of murder and will serve two more for the high speed-chase. During the standoff at the mobile home, police kept Margaret Spradlin and her daughter in various patrol cars for seven hours. “A reasonable jury could conclude that people held in the back of a police cruiser with a gun pointed at them and not allowed to leave after doing so were seized,” the judge said in his ruling. Police spent the day throwing teargas grenades into the mobile home, including one that started a fire in the living room that burned the place down.
“The Court cannot conclude that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity regarding the force used and the destruction of the plaintiffs’ home,” [US District Judge J. Ronnie] Greer wrote in an opinion filed in Greeneville, Tenn. “The reasonableness of their actions quite candidly must be decided by a jury based on the current state of this record.”
At the same time, the judge tossed out a host of such claims as conspiracy to inflict emotional distress, violation of free speech, outrageous conduct and violation of due process rights.
The county attorney will now try to make a narrower request for immunity, of officers the county claims were only following orders.