Local News

Lee County sued over stun gun incident

Posted February 11, 2010 12:58 p.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2010 10:15 p.m. EST

— A Lee County man filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the county, the sheriff's department and numerous deputies, saying the deputies beat him and used a stun gun on him 11 times last April.

Steven "Wayne" Thomas is seeking more than $3 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages in the suit, alleging that the deputies violated his civil rights.

According to the suit, Thomas started acting irrationally after working with chemicals in his tobacco fields. As his friend was driving him to seek medical help, Thomas jumped out of the pickup and destroyed a woman's decorative fence.

When deputies arrived to arrest him, they assaulted him and broke his jaw, the lawsuit alleges. One deputy used his stun gun on Thomas eight times in less than three minutes, according to the suit.

Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said his deputies were pushed around in the scuffle and that they acted appropriately.

"Mr. Thomas assaulted one of my deputies (and) later in the incident, assaulted two more of my deputies. I believe my officers used a reasonable amount of force," Carter said Thursday.

The deputies arrested Thomas and kept him shackled to a hospital bed for two days, although a magistrate had already set a bond for him and his family had agreed to post the bond, according to the lawsuit.

“The Lee County Sheriff’s Department acted recklessly and clearly used excessive force on Wayne Thomas," attorney Kieran Shanahan said in a statement. "The situation was made worse when Wayne was held for three-and-one-half days and not told he could post bail. He was also denied proper medical care.

"My client and I are both pro-law enforcement, but this is a clear case of law enforcement going too far."