Assault victim files claim against county
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
Two former Houston County sheriff's deputies recently sentenced to federal prison for assaulting Damon Taylor now face civil litigation from Taylor. Taylor is also suing Houston County. The former deputies, Henry Doyce Gresham, Jr. and Charles James Clark, pled guilty to misdemeanor assault and were sentenced on June 29 to four and three months in prison, respectively. The complaint filed July 9 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, alleges that Taylor's civil rights were violated on or about July 11, 2009 when Gresham and Clark assaulted him. The complaint alleges, “Defendant Houston County through its policies, procedures and practices failed to train Defendants Gresham and Clark in the use of force, proper handling of civilians, handling of stress-induced situations and anger management thereby resulting in damages to Plaintiff Taylor.” Additional allegations made in the complaint are: • “Defendant Houston County further failed to supervise Defendants Gresham and Clark, and thereby allowed their actions to reach a level where violations of Plaintiff Taylor's civil rights occurred. • “As a direct result and proximate cause of Defendants, violation of his civil rights he has suffered bodily and psychological injury in the past and will continue to suffer the same in the future. • “Defendant Houston County's inadequate written policies and procedures have created a pattern of policy and procedure resulting in the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. • “Defendant Houston County's omissions and failures to take adequate steps to safeguard constitutions (sic) rights have resulted in injury to the Plaintiff. • “Defendant Houston County's failure to properly train Defendants Gresham and Clark have resulted in violations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. • “Defendant Houston County's failure to properly train Defendants Gresham and Clark represents an obvious risk of harm where proper training would suffice to reduce that risk and where the decisions of an untrained officer would likely result in flagrant violations of constitutional right such as suffered by the Plaintiff.” The complaint states that on or about July 11, 2009, Taylor was dating Gresham's daughter. According to the complaint, when Gresham learned Taylor was in his home, he contacted Clark and they went to his home. The complaint further alleges, “Plaintiff Taylor was placed into an arm hold and placed into the back of Defendant Gresham's unmarked Sheriff's Office vehicle. Defendant Gresham then drove the vehicle while Defendant Clark road (sic) in the rear with Plaintiff Taylor. During the ride Defendant Clark proceeded to use a Houston County issued TASER on Plaintiff Taylor and also struck him several times in the face. “During the ride Defendant Clark proceeded to use a Houston County issued TASER on Plaintiff Taylor and also struck him several times in the face.” The allegations contained in Taylor's complaint continue, “The vehicle was driven into Davy Crockett National Forest where Plaintiff Taylor was removed from the vehicle. “At this point Defendants Gresham and Clark physically beat Plaintiff Taylor with their fist. Defendant Gresham also used his Houston County issued service weapon to threaten Plaintiff Taylor, and ultimately pistol-whipped him with the same.” The scenario described in Taylor's complaint concludes with “Plaintiff Taylor was then left alone, beaten, battered and bleeding to find his way out of the National Forest to seek help for his injuries.” In his original complaint filed with the court, “plaintiff prays for compensation for violations of his constitutional right and exemplary damages. Plaintiff prays for costs, expert fees and attorney's fees.” Brent L. Watkins of Zeleskey Law Firm, PLLC in Lufkin is the attorney for Taylor. Larry J. Simmons, Jr. of Germer and Gertz in Beaumont is the attorney for Houston County. The county has not yet filed its response to the lawsuit.