Arrestee files lawsuit against city

Published 12:21 am Saturday, August 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — The man apparently at the center of federal indictments against two Natchez police officers has filed a lawsuit against the City of Natchez.

Jason Ellard, one of the men the officers allegedly assaulted, filed a lawsuit on June 23 naming the City of Natchez, officer Dewayne Johnson and at least five other defendants referred to as “John Does,” Ellard’s attorney Hyde Carby said.

The defendants were reportedly served with the lawsuit on July 15.

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The lawsuit alleges Johnson used wrongful and excessive force against Ellard. Ellard claims he was beaten with fists and/or Johnson’s flashlight or baton to the point of unconsciousness while lying handcuffed in the backseat of a Natchez police car in handcuffs. Elvis Prater, the other officer indicted on federal charges of civil rights violations, is not named in the suit.

Ellard was reportedly outside the bar Dimples in downtown Natchez on May 23, 2009, when the incident occurred, according to police reports at the time and a previous report from his brother Jacob Ellard.

Click here for a pdf of Jason Ellard’s lawsuit against the City of NatchezCity’s attempt to stay lawsuitEllard’s response to stay request

Jacob Ellard said shortly after the incident that police had responded to an unrelated fight at the bar.

Jacob Ellard said he and his brother Daniel were standing on a corner near the bar waiting for their brother Jason, when a police officer Prater approached his group and began yelling at Daniel.

Jacob Ellard said when Prater attempted to handcuff Daniel, Daniel punched him.

Coverage of the May 2009 brutality allegationsPolice chief calls in outside agency for investigationTwo NPD officers indicted on federal charges

A police report from the time of the incident said while Prater fought Daniel, Jason Ellard jumped on the officer’s back and began punching and choking him.

As he fought with both men on the ground, Prater called for help, the report said.

Natchez Police Sgt. Clarence Hayes, Johnson and Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Lee, who were all already at the original fight, arrived to help Prater.

Jacob Ellard alleged in May 2009 that after his brothers were handcuffed they were taken to an unknown location near the Natchez Police station and beaten before they were brought to the police station.

Ellard was transported to the Natchez City Jail, but upon entering the jail, administrators noted Ellard’s injuries, and Ellard was transported to a local hospital.

Ellard was later moved to University Medical Center in Jackson for additional medical attention. Ellard suffered a broken jaw and needed a tracheotomy to breathe. The lawsuit also reports Ellard was initially in a coma.

Ellard is seeking a monetary award for damages, including, but not limited to, pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress and medical and legal expenses.

The suit names the City of Natchez as the defendant because it is the entity responsible for the oversight and funding of the Natchez Police Department.

The suit alleges the city failed “to properly and adequately train their officers, employees and agents in the police department.”

The City of Natchez filed a motion for a stay of proceedings on Aug. 2, citing Ellard’s upcoming criminal trial at 9 a.m. Sept. 22 in circuit court. Ellard has been indicted on one count of assault on a police officer. A pre-trial appearance is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Carby has filed a motion for the court to deny the city’s motion.

Carby said the “John Does” listed in the lawsuit are a legal formality, and do not represent any actual city or police officials, at least not yet.

“As the facts develop and we learn more about the case, we have the opportunity to add more parties if needed,” Carby said.