Alabama woman sues Tennessee agencies claiming violation of civil rights, injuries to son
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--An Alabama woman is suing the City of Franklin, Williamson County, and the Department of Children's Services alleging civil rights violations and severe injuries her child suffered while in the care of Franklin Police Officers.
According to the suit filed in Nashville, Tracey Garth says she drove from Alabama to Tennessee on April 25, 2016 with the intention to go shopping the next day.
During her trip, Garth claims just after midnight on April 25th, she pulled into the Shell gas station at 1316 Murfreesboro Road in Franklin to get gas. Garth says she was holding her 8-month-old son in her arms while her two-year-old sat in the car.
At that time, a Franklin Police sergeant pulled up and accused Garth of passing a dump truck, striking a traffic cone, speeding, and failing to stop for police.
Garth says she was arrested, denied access to her purse and wallet, and was told her children would be placed in DCS custody since she had nobody to pick up the children in the state. Garth says being denied access to her purse and money, it hindered her ability to post bond and get back to her kids. She also says she was denied the right to speak with an attorney and was not allowed to make a phone call for 14 days.
Garth claims her children were transported by police without their diaper bags which contained food, diapers, formula and other important documents. As a DCS investigator was making her way to the police department at 3 a.m. the morning of Garth's arrest, Garth says her 2-year-old suffered disfiguring burns to his mouth, chin and chest while at the station, purportedly from hot water.
Her son was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center by one of the officers allegedly charged with the boy's care while the DCS worker took the youngest child to a field office. Garth says not only was she not notified of the incident, DCS never investigated how the boy received the injuries.
In a petition written by the DCS investigator, police say Garth "ran off several times" from officers the morning of the stop, was "uncooperative," and told officers she had nobody to pick up the children.
Garth disputes the claims, and says she was misled by police and DCS during her incarceration. She also claims she was subjected to mistreatment while in jail by officers.
Garth's charges included evading arrest, reckless endangerment, speeding, and violation of the child restraint law.
A spokesperson for the Williamson County Sheriff's Officer provided this statement to Fox 17 News:
"Williamson County was not involved in the arrest of the Plaintiff or in the proceedings related to custody of the minor children involved. Williamson County and its deputies are named in this lawsuit in relation to claims about the conditions of the Plaintiffs confinement at the jail after arrest by another agency. The County does not comment on specifics related to pending litigation, but we will file an answer to the complaint in due course and that response will be public record when it is filed with the Court. While I cannot comment on the facts of any specific case, Williamson County Sheriff’s Office consistently strives to balance the rights of individual inmates with the duty to protect the safety and security of all inmates and of the staff who are tasked with their supervision and custody. As you might imagine, individuals who are booked into the jail are not always cooperative and do not always act consistent with their own well being or the safety of others. The County will vigorously defend its actions and the actions of the Sheriff and the employees of the Williamson County Sheriff’s office in this case."
The City of Franklin and Franklin Police Department provided a statement on the lawsuit as well:
"On April 25, 2016, Franklin Police arrested Tracy Garth for three counts of Reckless Endangerment with a Deadly Weapon, two counts of violating the Child Restraint Law, two counts of Felony Evading, and multiple other moving violations.
Following Garth’s arrest, officers called DCS to assist with caring for Garth’s young children after she was unable to provide contact information for other family or next of kin. While officers were waiting for DCS, one of the children was burned by hot water after pushing a button on a dispenser in the Police Department break room. Emergency Medical Services were called and the child was transported to Vanderbilt, treated, and released to DCS.
Though our legal counsel has advised us not to discuss the particulars of this case outside of the courtroom, we hope that the public recognizes that there are two sides to every story. In the meantime, we hope that the people whom we serve know how earnestly we care for their rights, their safety, and especially their children."
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