The Decatur Police Department and Morgan County Jail have been sued by a man who avoided a charge of attempting to murder a police officer when the jury deadlocked and who claims the jail provided inadequate medical treatment after an officer intentionally broke his wrist during the arrest.
Gary Bruce Locke, 46, an inmate of the jail, allegedly backed his F-150 pickup into Officer Robbie Willis in November 2019 while Willis, on a patrol motorcycle, attempted to stop him after a 2-mile chase ending at Wilson Street and Newcomb Street Northwest for running a traffic light at Alabama 20 and Alabama 67.
According to an affidavit by Decatur police Detective Sean Mukaddam filed in federal court last week, Locke admitted to backing into Willis because "he thought the officer was a member of the 'Aryan Brotherhood' who was coming to kill him."
According to a narrative report filed last week in federal court, Willis was knocked off his motorcycle, dragged about 6 feet and feared Locke would run over him. He then "drew his duty pistol and discharged two rounds into the rear of the truck."
Willis sustained a broken nose, road rash, lacerations and bruises during the incident and was transported to Decatur Morgan Hospital for treatment.
Locke then led Decatur police and officers from other agencies on another high-speed chase across the U.S. 31 bridge, east on Interstate 565 and north on I-65. Athens police attempted to spike-strip Locke's vehicle but missed it, instead leaving a Decatur police car inoperable, according to the narrative filed last week.
Decatur police Sgt. Timothy Pace, in an affidavit filed Tuesday, said he heard on his radio that "that there was an officer involved shooting and that the officer was 'down,'" and he joined the chase.
After speeds exceeding 90 mph, Locke eventually wrecked near U.S. 72 and I-65 in Athens and fled his vehicle on foot. Pace drove farther north in an effort to block his escape.
"I was successful in this attempt and was able to chase the plaintiff down in a cotton field adjacent to the interstate and ordered him to halt. I never made physical contact with the plaintiff; rather I held him at gunpoint at a safe distance while other officers caught up to the plaintiff and took him into custody," Pace wrote.
Locke was charged with attempted murder, attempting to elude, driving while license revoked and failure to stop for a traffic signal.
In a March jury trial, Locke was found guilty on the lesser charges, but not on the attempted murder charge, a Class A felony that could have gotten him life in prison.
Morgan County Circuit Judge Charles Elliott gave an overview of the jury deliberations in an order issued April 6.
“After several hours, the jury informed the Court that it was hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict as to the attempted murder charge,” he wrote, and he declared a mistrial after concluding “that there are no reasonable prospects of a unanimous verdict.”
Locke is scheduled to appear for sentencing on the other charges June 30.
Elliott scheduled the retrial on the attempted murder charge for May 3, but on April 28 Locke pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of first-degree attempted assault. Elliott sentenced him on that charge to 10 years, but with a split sentence in which he would serve two years in prison and 36 months of supervised probation. Locke was also ordered to pay $5,153 in restitution for damage to the patrol motorcycle.
In the meantime, Locke has filed suit in federal court against the Decatur Police Department and the Morgan County Jail.
He alleged a police officer broke his wrist during his arrest and medical staff at the jail failed to treat it until he eventually had it surgically repaired seven months later. He has repeatedly claimed in pleadings that authorities have refused to give him the name of the officer he claims broke his wrist, and the court ruled that Locke's description is sufficient "for the defendants to determine this officer’s identity.”
“After I surrendered to the unnamed officer and was placed in handcuffs he deliberately twisted my arm and broke my hand/wrist and laughed,” Locke wrote in a hand-written amended complaint filed in February. “He then took my money … and kept it. He was wearing fatigues and a blue shirt, was carrying an AR-15 type assault rifle.”
Locke in March filed a notice in which he claimed Pace was the officer who broke his wrist, although Pace filed an affidavit saying he never touched Locke.
Police affidavits in the federal court proceeding indicate a female officer initially placed handcuffs on Locke as he lay on the ground with other officers pointing guns at him.
Locke alleged he was placed in Mukaddam’s custody after the arrest and complained to him that he thought his wrist was broken. He said the police vehicle stopped so the handcuffs could be adjusted, but the officers “kept me handcuffed behind my back on my broken bones.”
He alleges he continued to complain about his wrist when Mukaddam interviewed him at the Police Department.
“He told me I needed to tell him what he wanted to know to get a doctor,” Locke claims, “which of course was a lie. I never received medical attention.”
Mukaddam has a different account, set out in an affidavit filed May 27 in federal court.
He said he received the officer-involved shooting call, joined the chase for Locke and was present at the scene when Locke was caught. He said he did not place his hands on Locke or restrain him. Mukaddam said he interviewed Locke for about four hours as to his reasons for backing into the motorcycle officer.
Mukaddam wrote that Locke complained about his wrist once during the interview, “but was able to sign a waiver of his Miranda rights and then sign a statement as to what happened during the chase.”
Locke also alleges he made numerous complaints about his wrist to jail personnel, and he claims inadequate medical treatment amounted to a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishments.”
Nurse Naidine Clopton, a jail nurse, "refused to treat my injury, claiming nothing was wrong with me, without even examining me” despite an X-ray machine being in the next room, he alleges.
Jail medical records filed with the court do show complaints of wrist and arm pain, including a notation on the day after he was booked that “inmate states he thinks his wrist is broke.”
Months later, Locke alleges in his complaint, a medical doctor “examined my injury (and) determined it was broken in several places, had not healed correctly because of not being treated immediately.” He said the surgery involved a bone graft and the insertion of screws, and “it feels like I may never be able to use my arm properly ever again.” Medical records filed in court report a fracture of the scaphoid, a bone in the wrist, that was surgically repaired with screws.
Clopton, according to an affidavit she filed with the court last week, is employed by Quality Correctional Healthcare Inc., which provides health care to Morgan County Jail inmates.
Clopton said Locke has been in the jail since Nov. 4, 2019, and she performed a physical assessment of him four days after he was booked. In her affidavit, Clopton neither acknowledges nor denies Locke’s claims that he made frequent complaints of wrist pain.
Locke, she said, was seen at Decatur Orthopedics on May 26, 2020, had wrist surgery at Huntsville Hospital on June 18, and had several follow-up appointments through Oct. 14. She said Locke was never denied medical treatment or evaluation at the jail and that his “medical needs have been appropriately addressed during his incarceration at the Morgan County Jail.”
In a motion filed May 21, Clopton’s lawyer argued she provided adequate treatment to Locke and, even if she hadn’t, she could not be held liable.
“Neither the mere inadvertent failure to provide medical care nor the negligent diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition, nor medical malpractice states a claim under the Eighth Amendment,” according to the motion.