Waveland P.D. sued for civil rights violations

A Kiln resident has filed suit against the city of Waveland, Police Chief James Varnell, and several officers claiming that police violated his civil rights, falsely arrested him, assaulted and battered him and his daughter, and shot his dog.

The suit, Grady Earl Bryant Sr., versus the City of Waveland, James A. Varnell, John Salterelli, Eddie Besse, Eric Loveless, Mike Prendergast, and other officers was filed last week in Hancock County Circuit Court.

The case has since been transferred to United States District Court, Bryant’s attorney Timothy Holleman said Thursday.

The city has denied the claims.

The suit centers around an incident on September 5, 2008, when Waveland officers were serving warrants during a drug round-up titled operation “Gotcha.”

The operation landed about 20 suspected drug dealers in jail.

Officers, with arrest warrants in hand, went to Bryant’s home at 17176 Gardenia Street in the Silver Creek Community looking for one of the suspects about 7 a.m, the suit said.

The address on the warrant, however, was 17196 Gardenia Street, the house next door, the suit said.

The two trailers were on the same lot and officers went to the wrong door, Varnell said after the incident.

Bryant was not the suspect, but his daughter’s boyfriend was, and he had apparently been staying at the other trailer on the property, Varnell said.

Bryant claims he was sitting on the couch feeding his one-month-old grandchild when he heard loud banging and yelling at his door.

As he was getting up, the door suddenly flew open and he noticed someone attempt of open the screen/glass door, the suit said.

Holleman said once Bryant realized it was the police, he obeyed all of the officer’s orders, but he did question whether they had a warrant.

Holleman said officers were screaming at and threatening Bryant, and ordered him to step outside.

Bryant’s pet dog, Killer, began barking loudly at the officers, and Bryant was ordered to get control of the dog, the suit said.

Once Bryant stepped outside, he was “attacked” by one of the officers, the suit said.

“He was grabbed by the throat and forced back onto the steps of the trailer where one of the officers continued to choke him to the point he felt he was going to pass out,” the suit said.

One of the officers then shot the dog, the suit said.
After the incident, Varnell said the dog had bitten one of the officers and it was tased first and only shot after continuing to attack the officers.

The dog survived the shooting.

Bryant was placed in handcuffs while officers searched the house, the suit said.

The suit also claims that officers assaulted Bryant’s 15-year-old daughter by pushing her over a couch.

“The way the officers acted was terrible,” Holleman said. “Mr. Bryant did everything they asked him to do except bow down to them. Sure he was upset, but he was only asking them if they had a warrant and why they were there.”

Holleman said a television reporter was with police during the incident and most of it was captured on video.

He said he has obtained a copy of the video.

Additionally, Holleman said, officers were outside their jurisdiction and had no businesses serving a municipal warrant without the assistance of the sheriff’s department.

Varnell said officers were only assisting the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on the raid.

Those two agencies have jurisdiction in the rural areas and no Waveland officers made any arrests, Varnell said.

After the incident, Bryant was cited for disorderly conduct: however, that charge was dismissed in Hancock County Justice Court, Holleman said.

Holleman also claims that officers wrote misleading reports of the incident.

“Sadly, without the video we would have never been able to prove anything,” Holleman said.

Varnell said Thursday he stands by his officers, but he was not able to give any new comments because of the pending litigation.

The suit is seeking the maximum amount of damages under Mississippi’s tort law.

Now that the case has been moved to federal court, the damages are unspecified.

BY Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

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