Tennessee Man Sues City of Chattanooga After Police Arrested Him When He Reported White Teen’s Car Crash

Officer Lance Hughes.(Image: File Chattanooga Police Department staff photo)

lawsuit alleges that Chattanooga police officers falsely arrested a Black man who had called them to report that a white teenager had crashed into a building.

In May 2021, Michael James, a Hamilton County resident, filed a lawsuit against the City of Chattanooga and several officers, saying they violated his civil rights during an incident that happened last year.

According to the lawsuit, James had been driving in Chattanooga around 4 a.m. on May 6, 2020, when he saw a Nissan SUV “traveling in an erratic and dangerous manner,” and that it almost hit his vehicle.

James said there were two people in the SUV, both of them minors, with the driver being a 14-year-old white girl. The lawsuit alleges that at one point the teens ‘flipped off’ James, and then ran a red light before going off-road and hitting a building.

When officers arrived after he called 911, James – who is African American – said one of the officers pointed a gun at him, and he was handcuffed. James said he and his car were searched without his permission, and that he was tested for intoxication. The lawsuit says he had not consumed any alcohol or drugs.

He says the officers did not do the same for the 14-year-old girl who had crashed the vehicle. She was not arrested or charged, in spite of her not having a license or insurance for the vehicle, the attorneys said.

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