Freeman: Chattanooga Police Department Declines to Charge Officer Who Allegedly Threw a 71-Year-Old Man to Floor and a Good Samaritan Through a Glass Door

thumb_policeman_cartoonThe Chattanooga Police Department has decided that an officer who assaults two people, including pushing one through a plate glass window, will not be criminally charge. Det. Kenneth Freeman is truly a free man after, on Christmas Eve, shoving 71-year-old Wal-Mart greeter Bill Walker to the ground. Why? Because he was asking for a receipt check. Freeman then reportedly shoved Gholom Ghassedi through a glass door when he tried to assist Walker. The police routinely charge people with battery and resisting arrest if they touch the sleeve of an officer. Even hugging an officer or passing gas near an officer has led to a charge of assault. Yet, the Chattanooga Police Department can’t imagine what it would charge Freeman with after assaulting an elderly man and shoving a good samaritan through a glass door.

Collegedale Judge Kevin Wilson reviewed the complaint filed by Walker and decided that there was no room for an assault charge.

Walker said an alarm went off when Det. Freeman and another city police officer, Edwin McPherson, were leaving the store. He tried to stop Freeman and pushed against a soft drink machine and to the floor. He said the officer then stood over him in a threatening manner as he lay on the floor.

A customer, Gholom Ghassedi, then told Freeman, “You can’t push down an old man” and began struggling with him only to be shoved through a glass door. He was bleeding from his neck when officers arrived.

Cpl. Larry Robbins Jr. of the Collegedale Police said he decided not to bring assault charges against Det. Freeman because the incident was a misdemeanor not committed in the presence of an officer — not counting the officer doing the beating of course. He further insisted that, since Gholom Ghassedi, did not seek medical attention, it did not meet that criteria. Finally, he explained “there were no other crimes committed along with the possible simple assault.”

If that seems a bit ridiculous, it is. There is a host of possible charges here in the abuse of an elderly person and assault on not one but two individuals. The police department had to struggle to find a way not to charge Freeman, insisting that they were “unable to determine at the scene that there was any intent to commit an assault.” Well, whatever his intent, he succeeded in knocking an elderly man to the ground and throwing another through a door. Was that all involuntary muscular reflex?

By the way, Freeman was involved in a scuffle with attorney Lloyd Levitt at the Courts Building in May 2007. What is clear is that the problem is not just Det. Freeman, but the Chattanooga Police Department itself.

For the full story, click here.

92 thoughts on “Freeman: Chattanooga Police Department Declines to Charge Officer Who Allegedly Threw a 71-Year-Old Man to Floor and a Good Samaritan Through a Glass Door”

  1. OK, manhandled may be a bit strong for a grab on the arm. But there’s definitely intent to hold the shopper, and that’s the crux of the issue. Should store employees physically restrain someone simply because an alarm goes off?

    Some EAS systems have a digital counter that records every activation. Look at the next one you pass. Unless it’s been very recently reset, you’re likely to see a high double- or low-triple-digit number. If even half of these represented actual shoplifters, police would have to set up a substation in the parking lot. An active sensor triggers the alarm, and while many false positives are due to cashier error, some high-dollar electronics contain EAS sensors inside the packaging that can’t be disabled during checkout. Magnetic strips on credit cards or key cards have been known to trigger the alarms in some cases.

    It’s perhaps a minor phenomenon of social conditioning that we pay any heed to a system that cries wolf so often. Most people ignore car alarms and regard them as more irritant than crime deterrent. Why, then, should rational, free thinking adults click their heels together in full halt and open their bags for inspection at the beckoning of a robotic voice? There’s something altogether Pavlovian about this response. You know you didn’t steal, you know the doorway inspection for contraband will be fruitless, so why endure it?

    What should store employees do? Well, they’re certainly free to approach customers and ask to see their receipts. As long as it’s an interrogative and not an imperative — that is, the search is completely voluntary — they have every right to take that step. But to demand proof of purchase, to hold someone’s cart, to grab them or otherwise restrain them amounts to an irresponsible and indefensible strong-arm witch hunt. In those four states that allow detention for an EAS activation, just because an employee can stop you doesn’t mean he should. The law extends to merchants the right to hold customers, but there is no corollary law requiring those customers to play along. They can keep walking, and if they’re physically restrained, they can refuse to be searched and demand the police be called.

    Responsible loss prevention agents don’t detain someone on suspicion alone — the corresponding number of “bad stops,” or false arrests, would be staggering. To touch a customer and physically prevent him from leaving, you should have nothing less than actual knowledge of shoplifting. That’s the accepted industry practice. That’s why the store has surveillance cameras — and someone deep in the bowels of the building watching real-time on a monitor.

    What should the store do when someone sets off the alarm and waves off the exit search? If LP didn’t see him steal, absolutely nothing! They can follow me to the car and write down my license plate number if they want…as I’m not a thief, I have nothing to worry about. Call the police, you suggest? Call and tell them what? “We think someone maybe stole, but we don’t know. He set off an alarm that goes off dozens of times a day.”?

  2. indieregister:

    “Channel 9 has used the word “grabbed” in at least two stories posted online about the incident.”


    The exact sentence from that article:

    “The greeter reportedly told Freeman to stop and grabbed him on the arm.”

    We aren’t told who “reported” the grabbing, but since the title of the article is “Chattanooga Officer Tells His Side on Assault Complaint”, we can reasonably that this is the detective’s side of the story.

    You should shrink from using the word “manhandled”, because as you know, it implies much more violent behavior than merely “grabbed”. It is an attempt to strengthen your argument by emotional means, not by effective argumentation.

    But, now, a hypothetical.

    You seem to have indicated in an earlier post that you don’t think the sounding of the alarm plus the refusal to cooperate should constitute probable cause to detain (I quote):

    “I’m truly sorry I neglected to mention that at least four states by my count — Florida, Georgia, Mississippoi and West Virginia — have shoplifting laws that empower merchants to detain and search shoppers who activate the EAS sensors. While I certainly disagree with the law in these cases…”

    Suppose a customer, not otherwise suspected of shoplifting, trips the EAS alarm upon leaving the store. Suppose an employee asks the customer to stop and submit to an inspection of his/her bags, but the customer ignores the request and simply continues walking out of the store.

    What would you have the store do in such cases? Just let the customer go on his way, possibly with stolen merchandise (and, possibly not, of course)? Take his picture? Call the police, who won’t get there until the customer is long gone?

  3. Mespo,

    Your little anecdotes and condescending swipes fail to advance your position. If you’re such a learned scholar, why have you failed repeatedly to answer my challenges to your highly suspect legal theories and instead responded with ad hominem bile?

    You don’t prove that you’re correct. You don’t debate. You just repeat yourself.

    When I pointed out the shortcomings with your summary of the Sporny case, you remained silent. When I picked apart your assertion that the greeter had probable cause to try to detain the detective, you said nothing.

    You and I may respectuflly disagree on some subjects, but I’m a fair person who will admit when he’s wrong. So, prove your point. Enlighten me. Tell me what gave the greeter probable cause to grab Freeman in an attempt to detain him.

  4. indieregister:

    “Despite Mespo’s putdown, (s)he hasn’t disputed the fact that the greeter didn’t have probable cause to detain Freeman.”


    Your utter misunderstanding of this situation in spite of the black letter law gently shoved under your nose coupled with your chosen profession of independent journalism, force me to repeat a famous line by former IU coach Bobby Knight. When confronted by an equally clueless reporter asking the same exasperating questions already covered in the answer he just gave, Knight responded “All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.” Knight is assuredly no role model for anything, but his observation of some in the press is spot on.

  5. Pedantic:

    Channel 9 has used the word “grabbed” in at least two stories posted online about the incident.

    The Chattanoogan says the greeter “reached to stop” Freeman. That’s pretty vague, and I’ll leave it to others to parse its meaning, but it certainly sounds like some attempt at restraint.

    Yes, I used the word manhandled, and I won’t shrink from it. Store employees who use their hands instead of their mouths when they approach customers are at least thoughtless and rude and at the most intentionally trying to intimidate the shopper.

    Despite Mespo’s putdown, (s)he hasn’t disputed the fact that the greeter didn’t have probable cause to detain Freeman. Again, no one’s completely innocent here. The greeter was wrong and the detective was dead wrong.

  6. indieregister:

    “…you’re making me dizzy.”


    Though I’d like to, I don’t think I can take credit for that.

  7. I think there are some cop commentors who are taking offense with the rest of us defending the Walmart greeter. Let me ask you this, If that was your grandfather, or father being shoved to the ground. Would your stance be different? My dad wasn’t the greatest human being, but I’d be damned if I EVER let someone get away with shoving him into or onto any floor. I have seen very littel restraint in alot of cops, and there are alot of crooked cops. TO me, this is just another cop out of control and needs anger management. REALLY shoving to the ground? I think the so called police officer was definitely in the wrong, and should have had the consequences for his actions.

  8. In the article at the beginning of all this, we find this sentence, which I have cut and pasted from the article:

    “He tried to stop Freeman and pushed against a soft drink machine and to the floor.”

    Then in the first response by USA, we find this quote:

    “He said he reached to try to stop Det. Freeman and he was pushed against a soft drink machine and to the floor.”

    This sentence is not to be found in the article as Turley posted it; we have to go to the Chattanoogan article to find it.

    But, USA morphs “reached” to “grabbed”. For most of the remaining responses the act performed by Walker is called “grabbed”, although this word wasn’t used in any of the articles I’ve seen.

    But, now in the immediately previous response by indieregister, “grabbed” becomes “manhandled”.

    How these descriptions escalate!

  9. Let’s leave one fact out of the scenario: what if this guy wasn’t a police officer – but was instead a criminal defense lawyer? Would it still be OK for the lawyer to shove the greeter, or push the good samaritan through a plate glass window?

    If not, why not? Shall we enforce the laws differently depending upon whether we approve (or disapprove) of the alleged perpetrator? Can we do this and still claim to be a society that values the “rule of law” rather than the rule of man?

  10. You’re talking in circles, mespo, and you’re making me dizzy.

    The point we differ on is whether the greeter had PC to detain Freeman on suspicion of shoplifting. His grabbing was the attempted detainment. It would be nonsensical to say that his shoving the greeter helped establish PC for the grab that PRECEDED the shove, now wouldn’t it?

    My question to you was and still remains: Did the greeter have probable cause to try to detain Freeman? By your formula of EAS activation plus failure to cooperate, it seems that he didn’t, since there’s no indication that Freeman was uncooperative before the greeter tried to detain him.

    Lest anyone accuse me of defending the cop, I’ll say again that his retaliatory shove was a disproportionate use of force response, and Freeman most likely should have been charged with simple assault or its equivalent. While he is held to a higher standard because he’s a police officer, however, two wrongs do not make a right.

    The greeter, old and frail and pitiable as many have painted him, was still spry enough to try to manhandle a shopper. I doubt he was meekly trying to get the man’s attention. A tap on the shoulder translates to “Excuse me, sir,” but grabbing someone’s arm is a restraint. You don’t get all handsy with a customer you haven’t even spoken to.

    The first wrong belongs to the greeter, and the greater wrong belongs to the detective. Agreed?

  11. indieregister”

    “Declining a consent search shouldn’t be considered evidence that someone’s guilty. Explain that one to me…please!”


    Apparently you have trouble synthesizing separate events into a coherent whole. Failure to agree to a consent search without more doesn’t amount to probable cause, and failing to heed an EAS buzzer doesn’t either. We’re talking about the combination of the two which at least two courts says amounts to probable cause. Much like hydrogen and oxygen combine to make water yet neither is wet. I hope this illustrates the concept which obviously eludes your grasp.

    BTW throwing a 71 year old through a plate glass door usually qualifies as “belligerent failure to cooperate” in the minds of most reasonable people, I suspect.

  12. So, all the folks defending the officer’s assault:

    Cops are supposed to have and use judgement, and they’re trained, so we are continually told, to use it in life-threatening situations. Is it rational, is it smart,–is it good judgement to beat down an old man who reaches out and grabs your arm?

    Or would anyone with an ounce of brain perhaps simply ask what the individual wanted?

    Of course, as some people have stated, the excitement of being touched may have simply triggered the officer’s catlike ninja self-defence reflexes, which also explains why he threw a third party through a plate glass door. Sure … his catlike ninja reflexes hadn’t been deactivated yet … that musta been it. Musta been.

    The thought that this detective is running around armed makes me glad I don’t live anywhere near him. And you could add some of the authoritarians in the comment thread above to that.

    People have been charged with assault for standing on a sidewalk in front of cops, farting near cops, and in other, equally ludicrous circumstances. But a cop beats down on an old man and tosses a stranger through a window and that’s just peachy?

    Something is wrong with your mind if you consider this somehow justified.

  13. The greeter had actually asked to see Freeman’s reciept PRIOR to the alarm activating which the greeter admitted later that HE WAS THE ONE that accidentally set off the alarm not the officer

  14. Mespo:
    As I previously noted, your summary of the Sporny case was incorrect. I’ll give you half credit, as the second case was ruled as you explained it.

    You said the greeter had PC to detain Freeman because of the “triggered EAS coupled with the detective’s belligerent failure to cooperate.”

    First of all, where’s this belligerent failure to cooperate? None of the media accounts indicate that the greeter asked Freeman to stop or shouted to get his attention — only that he immediately got grabby. Surely you’re not suggesting that every exiting customer is supposed to instantly freeze on the spot whenever a security alarm sounds.

    Maybe Freeman would have gladly and voluntarily showed his receipt. Maybe he would have politely told the greeter that he chose not to be searched. We don’t know that the greeter ever asked. He grabbed.

    Secondly, something doesn’t seem to add up in your “Alarm + failure to cooperate = probable cause” equation. What would constitute cooperation? Letting an employee rifle through your bags and review your receipt?

    A receipt check is a consent search. It’s our property, they ask for permission to inspect it because (1) private citizens can’t forcibly search, and (2) they don’t have PC to detain. Declining a consent search shouldn’t be considered evidence that someone’s guilty. Explain that one to me…please!

  15. I do believe that Freeman did overreact, but the bottom line is that If I haven’t done anything wrong and someone grabs my arm and walks around in front of me to stop me I would try to keep the person from doing that also.

  16. From what I understand the greeter did have any reason to suspect the officer of shoplifting. So without and probable cause I fail to see how Wal-Marts policy to check reciepts for the sake of seeing reciepts is any different than unlawful detaining.

    I guess the way I see it is that what is the different between stopping people jsut to see their reciepts for the sake of seeing them when there is an appearance of having done nothing wrong and for example a police officer stopping you while driving by him on the street just to see if you have a drivers license and to just check you out for no other reason other than he felt like it.


    “A lot less than that has passed for probable cause in false arrest complaints against police officers.”


    This is the most elliptical nonsense I have read on this blog. If the arrest lacked probable cause it was unlawful. If a court determined that the circumstances amounted to probable cause it therefore existed. If you mean that police departments routinely dismiss complaints with pre-textual arguments of probable cause, thank you for stating the obvious. That’s why we have courts.

    The point that many have made throughout this thread is that ample probable cause existed for the greeter to detain the officer due to the triggered EAS coupled with the detective’s belligerent failure to cooperate. That is the holding in the two cases I cited above. I am aware of no case which holds the triggered EAS, in and of itself, warrants a detainer without more.

    Stick to the pastry advice. You’ll have more credibility.

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