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GRAPHIC: Knoxville parents report body cam video proves excessive force claims at middle school

Parents of a former Northwest Middle School student claim a Knoxville Police Department officer, David Lee, used excessive force against their son, according to court documents obtained by WVLT News.
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 8:30 PM EDT|Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 3:06 PM EDT
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Warning: The above video contains sensitive language and imagery.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The parents of a former Northwest Middle School student filed a lawsuit against the Knoxville Police Department and officer David Lee for using excessive force against their son at Northwest Middle School, according to court documents obtained by WVLT News.

On April 19, 2021, then eighth-grade student, who WVLT News will call DJ to comply with Tennessee law when reporting on juveniles, was on his way to the bathroom when Lee detained him by grabbing his backpack and not letting go, according to the documents.

“It was at this point, Defendant Lee lifted the handcuffed, underweight Plaintiff off of his feet by his arms and slammed Plaintiff’s face into the hard wooden table with the totality of Defendant’s strength and weight, causing Plaintiff, a child, to scream in agonizing pain,” the documents state. “Defendant’s use of excessive force on Plaintiff, who was restrained and in compliance, caused him to sustain injuries, including but not limited to a large laceration on the Plaintiff’s chin, an injury that required multiple staples, as well as emotional and mental trauma.”

Another officer showed up to take DJ to jail and asked him if he needed an ambulance. Lee responded that he would call one anyway for DJ’s chin.

Lee searched the backpack but found no drug paraphernalia or illegal substances. DJ was charged with resisting arrest, which was later dismissed in juvenile court, according to the documents.

The family sued KPD for two civil rights violations; using excessive force and unreasonable seizure, and failure to train and supervise. The family sued Lee for using excessive force and unreasonable seizure, assault and battery, and outrageous conduct/intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The family requested DJ be awarded compensation for all injuries caused by the incident as well as compensatory and punitive damages not to exceed $1 million for either.

“The family hopes and expects that during the course of this lawsuit that an actual and meaningful investigation in to the actions taken by the officer is opened,” a lawyer representing the family said. “The family also feels that Northwest Middle School and its administrators should be made to answer for their role in this traumatic experience.”

WVLT News reached out to a KPD spokesperson who declined to comment on the case due to pending litigation, but did confirm to WVLT News Lee is a student resource officer working at West High School.

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