"Outrageous Stripping Of Dignity"?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - A 21-year-old Knoxville man is serving time for dealing cocaine and using guns.

But a citizens group claims the search that led to his arrest should outrage you.

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd explains why the group may sue the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

We want to warn you, parts of what you're about to read are pretty graphic. The claim is that Jonathan Lamar Hayes was strip searched in public, in front of children and perfect strangers.

But Hayes isn't who's filing the complaint. In fact, the group who is, has never talked to him.

"My daughter doesn't see her Daddy's private parts, let alone in public! I mean, come on," says activist Jay Mazon.

What outrages community activists and the Citizens for Police Review Board, isn't what you can see on this Knoxville Police cruiser cam video.

But what they claim customers and clerks saw, at the Dandridge Avenue Stop and Go when the federal ATF had a warrant to search Jonathan Hayes for drugs and weapons.

"He pulls them all the way down the boy's ankles with him handcuffed. Turned him around and opened up his crack, pulled him open, like you'd open up a baby's crack to wipe him clean," says Betty Turner, a clerk at the Stop and Go.

A letter from the ATF's Tennessee agent in charge, calls the Hayes search a reasonable response, given concerns about safety, location and evidence.

"It could have been done privately somewhere, I mean you go to jail, that's where it's done," says one Knoxville resident.

ATF admits its agents aren't trained to conduct strip or body cavity searches, and doesn't do them except in unusual circumstances where public safety's in jeopardy.

"No violence, he didn't resist, he'd already been patted down, several officers around, he was cooperative, says Knoxville Vice Mayor Mark Brown.

The Citizen's Board says enhanced audio the reveals agents found no drugs on Jonathan Hayes during the public search.

The ATF takes it further, saying the cruiser tape doesn't back witness claims that a public cavity or strip search even occurred.

Activist Jay Mazon wasn't there, but "You can't deny what happened, I mean people saw what happened, you can't deny that."

Knoxville police say the complaint has no basis.

But the Citizen's Review Board is asking the fed's Office of Professional Responsibility, to check the tapes, and talk to those who claim they saw the strip search.

Beyond that, the board may go to federal prosecutors.


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