Attorneys John Wolfe and Whitney Durand are representing Armetta L. Foster’s father, Leonard Foster, who is reportedly a representative for Armetta Foster’s surviving children.
Armetta Foster died May 21, 2011, after being shot numerous times by Bradley County Sheriff’s Office deputy Dustin Patrick.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Patrick was cleared and returned to work within a month of the incident, according to the suit filed Wednesday.
Foster’s two small children were with her on the trip from Florida to Kentucky when her vehicle reportedly broke down on Interstate 75.
Patrick was dispatched to the interstate to perform a welfare check after someone reported Foster and her children walking.
According to reports, Patrick said Foster produced a knife and began slashing at Patrick, reportedly cutting his right hand.
Foster then jumped into Patrick’s patrol car and fled the scene.
Patrick pulled his service weapon and fired a number of shots into the vehicle, according to reports.
Foster traveled north on the interstate before crashing through a fence and coming to a stop on Raines Drive, which is approximately a mile from where the incident began.
According to the suit, the Office of the Medical Examiner in Knoxville reported five bullets (.40 caliber) were recovered from Foster’s body. She had eight wounds.
According to statements from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, “While the deputy conversed with the woman, she unexpectedly produced a knife from her clothing and started slashing at the deputy, inflicting a cut on his right hand. The woman continued waving the knife in a threatening manner as she started toward his patrol car containing other weapons that would have posed a serious danger to the public.”
The suit also noted that Sheriff Jim Ruth on May 4, 2011, defended the deputy’s actions and stated; “The initial investigation indicates that deputy Patrick complied with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Use of Deadly Force policies which are based on Tennessee State Laws related to deadly force.” He cited BCSO’s General Order 13.3.2 Subsection A. 1 and 2, which says “an officer has the right to protect himself or others from what is reasonably believed to be a threat of death or serious bodily harm. He is also authorized to use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon who the officer has probable cause to believe will pose a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”
In the suit, Wolfe noted, “He did not elaborate upon the possible threat Ms. Foster posed to Patrick or others after abandoning her children.”
The attorneys contend in the suit that Patrick had not received “sufficient training about the use of deadly force.”
“In sum, the proper use of deadly force was only an incidental part (2 hours) of training by the BCSO of an officer who was highly skilled in firing weapons (with countless hours of training and testing) and poorly skilled in dealing with a person who, as he later said, was acting strangely. There is no evidence of Bradley County’s testing or analyzing his ability to apply lethal force lawfully,” the suit noted.
They also stated in the suit the TBI has not released its report.
The attorneys stated under the Grounds for Relief that “Patrick intentionally and wrongfully killed Ms. Foster in his official capacity as a deputy sheriff of Bradley County and BCSO was deliberately indifferent to the temperament and conduct of an officer who was unsuited for the position of deputy sheriff.”
Patrick was terminated in October 2011, after violation of departmental policy, which had no relation to the shooting, according to Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
Reports also indicated Foster had the drugs methamphetamine, lidocaine, midazolam and atropine in her system.
The attorneys are seeking a jury trial with any damages, whether punitive or compensatory, being determined by a jury.
“The county has not yet been served with the complaint, therefore we cannot comment until we have had a chance to review it,” said Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg.