Rutherford County inmate sues after pepper spray incident caught on camera

Demario Harris

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – A former inmate at the Rutherford County Detention Center wants $300,000 because he alleges the guards tied him down, pepper sprayed him and then didn’t provide him medical attention.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by Demario Harris Sr., the Robertson County man was booked into the Rutherford County jail on December 9, 2013 on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Following being booked he said he was put into a four-point restraint chair and then sprayed with a chemical spray, often called pepper spray, for no reason.

The incident was caught on video by a jail surveillance camera.

rutherford county jail
The alleged incident involving Demario Harris Sr. occurred in December 2013.

His lawsuit names Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold and two deputies involved in the incident.

The deputies, James Stephen Vanderveer and Jessica Leigh Green, are both still employed by the sheriff’s office.

When News 2 contacted Sheriff Robert Arnold’s office for comment we were told he would not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit states Harris was not “resisting, aggressive or combative at the time Defendant Vanderveer sprayed the chemical agent into his eyes.”

It continues that, Harris was left in the four-point restraint chair for a prolonged period of time without any opportunity to rinse the chemical agent.

The lawsuit states the actions of the deputies were reckless, malicious and violated Harris 8th Amendment protection against excessive force.

Harris states a week later, when he left the jail, he was still suffering from blurred vision and other injuries.

One of Harris’ attorneys said he was unavailable for comment Thursday.

A federal judge has given the county until January 28, 2015 to respond in writing to the lawsuit.

Harris is asking for $50,000 in compensatory damages from the sheriff and his two deputies.

It also asks for an additional $50,000 per defendant in punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees.

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