A multi-million dollar federal lawsuit filed last month and amended Tuesday alleges an Anderson County woman with multiple sclerosis was sprayed with chemical spray in the face and eyes at least twice while restrained and had her forehead slammed into a cement wall after she was arrested for public intoxication at her home earlier this year.
The lawsuit seeks $17.6 million for Heather Bolling, 30. She accused Anderson County jailers of using excessive force and brutality, and she alleged she was severely and permanently injured after she was arrested on Oak Road near Norris on April 28 and taken to the Anderson County Detention Facility in Clinton.
The original complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Aug. 21. The lawsuit names as defendants the Anderson County government, Sheriff Paul White, and eight employees of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, including correctional officers, jail supervisors, and a deputy.
In the lawsuit, Bolling alleged she was not classified as a special needs inmate, and she said jailers grew angry at her, yelled and screamed, grabbed her hair, and shoved her head into a wall and pinned it there. The chemical spray caused her to choke and gasp for air, the lawsuit said. Jailers had to help her walk “because she could not support her own weight in her dazed state,” the complaint charged. Her forehead was slammed into a cement wall with such force by an officer who grabbed her hair from the back that she was severely injured, the suit said.
The complaint said seven of the employees went into a day room cell with Bolling—she said she was injured and under control at that point—closed the door and brutalized her, “including chemically spraying her in the face and eyes again, and assaulting her more to the point Heather Bolling was in an unconscious state.”
The lawsuit said Bolling needed medical attention, but the defendants were “callously deliberately indifferent” to her medical needs and never got her medical care. Bolling later went to an emergency room at a Knox County hospital and got medical care for herself, the suit said.
The lawsuit said the incidents were captured on video recordings, but it alleged the audio was destroyed to prevent it from being used as evidence.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleged assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress, spoiling evidence, and conspiracy. It seeks a jury trial. The total $17.6 million in damages includes $3.5 million in compensatory damages, $1 million for spoiling evidence, and $10 million in punitive damages.
Bolling is represented by Knoxville attorney George T. Underwood Jr.
The defendants are represented by Knoxville attorney Arthur F. Knight III. On Tuesday, he asked the court to give them until Oct. 3 to file a response.