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Tennessee officer handcuffs tearful 10-year-old girl to show 'tough love'

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Posted at 10:30 AM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 12:30:27-04

LEWISBURG, Tenn. — A Tennessee girl was just 10 years old when an officer from the Lewisburg Police Department placed her in handcuffs for hitting her mother.

The department suspended Officer Christopher Stallings for two days, stating that he "escalated the situation."

WTVF learned about the handcuffing incident during a review of Stallings' personnel file following the death of an inmate in the Marshall County Jail.

Stallings was the first police officer to respond to the jail in May of 2020 after an inmate refused to get into a restraint chair. The inmate died after a lengthy struggle with officers.

The inmate's family is now suing Stallings and several other officers, as well as the City of Lewisburg and Marshall County.

Their lawsuit claims officers made statements "mocking" the inmate as he repeatedly said he could not breathe.

Less than a month before Stallings responded to that call at the Marshall County Jail, he responded to a domestic assault call involving an unruly 10-year-old girl.

"Your tears are not gonna sway me one way or the other," Stallings told the girl in April of 2020, as recorded by a police body camera.

"I'm sorry sir. I'll give her a hug and a kiss and I won't do it again," the girl said to Stallings.

The girl apologized repeatedly for hitting her mom.

But Stallings wrote in his police department incident report that he wanted to give the girl "tough love" because officers had been to her apartment "multiple times" in the past.

"You better be glad that these are your parents because you come at me that way, you're walking away with a busted head," Stallings told the girl.

Despite the tearful girl's apologies, bodycam video from another officer shows Stallings continued to berate her as she sat on her couch.

"I'd have done busted you. I'm old school police, and I'm an old school parent. I'd have done busted you up," Stallings said to the girl.

The girl's mother, Marlena Stacey, is the person who initially called police. She told WTVF that she and her husband felt helpless as Stallings seemed to escalate the situation.

"It was like he was having a bad night and he was taking it out on my child," Stacey said.

WTVF asked the girl's father, David Stacey, "Why didn't you step in and say 'stop this?'"

David Stacey responded, "I was scared. I was scared."

Marlena Stacey said, "How aggressive he was, I felt like if I said something, he would just find a reason to put me in jail."

The family was stunned when Stallings decided to handcuff the girl, even though he'd already worked out a plan to send her to her grandmother's house for the night.

"I won't do it again. I'm sorry," the girl said crying.

Stallings responded, "Oh we're back to that" and took out his handcuffs.

Stallings said, "Turn around and put your hands behind your back."

The video shows the girl crying as she fell onto the couch.

Stallings said, "If I have to reach and grab you, it's gonna be a bad day for everybody."

The girl said, "I don't want to go to jail. Just Tase me. Tase me please."

Her father said he is still disturbed by what happened, "It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking."

Her mother said, "She was just terrified. She's only 10."

The girl is seen flopping onto the couch and kicking her feet as Stallings tried to cuff her, leading Stallings to tell the girl, "That's assault on an officer."

In the disturbing struggle, the girl begs for her dad and promises again to behave.

Stallings said, "You kick me again, it's gonna be a bad damn day for you. You got me! I'm not your mom and daddy. I'll bust your little head."

He finally got the cuffs on but said this before she walked to her grandmother's car:

"You want to fight like a grown woman, I will treat you like a grown woman, which means I will bust your head. Do you understand?"

The girl responded, "Yes sir."

Stallings said, "Get her shoes on before I lose my temper."

The police department suspended Stallings for two days, finding that he "engaged in a verbal argument with a 10-year-old" and "used language that was inappropriate and escalated the situation."

Just three weeks after returning to work, he responded to the call at the Marshall County Jail involving William Jennette who was detoxing and refused to get into a restraint chair.

After Jennette was handcuffed, on his stomach, with leg restraints, he repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. But video from that night showed Stallings appeared to stay on Jennette's back.

In response to a civil lawsuit, Stallings attorney stated, "Mr. Jennette's drug abuse caused him to behave erratically dangerously" and that "all force deployed" was "lawful and reasonable under the circumstances."

Jennette's last words were "I'm good." Stallings responded:

"No, you ain't good. You're going to lay right there for another f*****g minute."

The autopsy listed "asphyxia" as a "contributory cause of death" and stated the manner of death as a "homicide."

The day after Jennette's death, Stallings and another police officer were put on administrative leave with pay.

The next week, Stallings resigned, writing because of "unforeseen circumstances ... employment with the department is no longer possible."

The Staceys say they saw obvious warning signs when Stallings dealt with their daughter.

"To me, ya'll are a blessing coming out here because it happened a long time ago and no one paid attention to it. It's like it didn't matter," said Marlena Stacey.

They're just glad it finally came to light more than a year after it happened.

Stallings now works at the Mt. Pleasant Police Department. The chief there called him their "top applicant" in a memo recommending that Stallings be hired.

WTVF reached out to Stallings' attorney, but he said he could not comment because of the pending lawsuit.

A grand jury looked into Jennette's death but did not bring criminal charges against any of the officers.

This story was originally published by Ben Hall at WTVF.