Lawyers weigh in on lawsuits filed against City of Hernando, police chief
HERNANDO, Miss. (WMC) - For the first time, lawyers in two lawsuits filed against the City of Hernando are talking on the record.
The cases involve officers with the Hernando Police Department. Lawyers said the two lawsuits involve the same officer under similar circumstances.
Hernando Police Chief Scott Worsham and Officer Lynn Brown are named in both lawsuits. One lawsuit is claiming excessive force was used by Brown, and another said Brown’s actions cause the death of two people.
The city’s attorneys are asking for both cases to be dismissed. In its response to one of the cases, Adrian Hoyle vs. City of Hernando, lawyers call the complaint a sham.
“There is not one fact I put in any of those lawsuits that I don’t have a witness for,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Martin Zummach said. “So, it’s not a sham.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers, Murray Wells and Zummach, say the incidents described in the lawsuits and lack of action taken against the officers by the police department show a pattern of bad behavior by officers supported by the department.
“We were intentional when we filed these two lawsuits along the same track, along the same time because we wanted to cast a big spotlight as to what’s happening down there,” Wells said.
One of those lawsuits was filed by Hoyle. Hoyle is seen in Hernando police dashcam footage of an incident that happened on September 3, 2020.
Hoyle and his lawyers say excessive force was used on him by Hernando police. The video shows police pursued Hoyle for several minutes. When he lost control of his car and stopped, he came out with his hands up, but a police K9 was still sent to Hoyle, attacking him. The lawsuit said took eight sutures to treat the dog bites on Hoyle’s body.
The lawsuit says Brown pursued Hoyle in the chase and deployed his K9.
Dispatch audio records Brown being told to end the chase.
City attorneys want the case dismissed. They said Hoyle was acting dangerously while driving a stolen car and leading police on a chase. Court records show Hoyle eventually pleaded guilty to felony fleeing related to the incident.
Brown is named in Hoyle’s case, and in a case filed by two mothers who say their sons died in a car wreck while being pursued by Brown.
“Videos are sexy because you can’t deny what was here on the video, but here is a companion case, I call it a companion case, filed on the same day, represented by the same lawyers called White v. the City of Hernando. In my personal opinion that one is more sinister,” Zummach said.
Murray and Zummach also represent Linda White and Kathryn Bonds.
The two say their sons, Jesse White and Kristopher Ford, were in a car July 27, 2019 that was being pursued by a Hernando police officer. The lawsuit says the officer was told to end the chase because the high rate of speed posed a threat to the officer, the public, and the car’s occupants.
Soon after that officer ended the chase, Brown reported seeing the car, according to the lawsuit, and began a vehicle pursuit.
The lawsuit says while Brown pursued the vehicle, it crashed, killing two of the four people inside.
“There’s evidence missing. We have two dead kids, involving the same officer, chasing a car when he’s told not to chase a car,” Zummach said.
Zummach and Wells say several pieces of evidence in the White case have gone missing, including the car Brown was driving. The lawyers say the car was sold.
Action News 5 reached out to the Hernando Police Department to confirm this. We are still waiting for a reply.
“In this community, we make everything about race and politics,” Zummach said “This is about right and wrong and I think that’s why we’ve heard the recent announcement the FBI has launched an investigation.”
The FBI investigation in Hernando was announced after the two lawsuits, dealing with the same police department and the same police officer were filed on the same day.
Tuesday, Zummach said Worsham told the Hernando mayor the FBI investigation was not something to worry about. Action News 5 reached out to Worsham about that comment.
In an email, Worsham said, “I relayed the information to the Mayor exactly as it was relayed to me. It also appears those feeding the media with this untruthful information are most likely the ones to gain regardless of the truth.”
In both lawsuits, it claims Worsham is the moving force behind officers’ misconduct by failing to adequately train or retrain, supervise, and control officers.
Worsham said two officers are now on desk duty following the lawsuit. Lawyers said one of them is Brown. It is something they say shouldn’t happen while an FBI investigation is ongoing.
“I’m very surprised he has access to witnesses and he has the ability to influence perhaps those witnesses,” Wells said.
Attorneys for the City of Hernando and officers declined to comment on the lawsuits, saying they do not comment on pending litigation.
Worsham declined an interview.
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