Civil lawsuit filed against sheriff, two officers, county, and city

by | February 8, 2018 7:02 am

District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents, and Tennessee Highway Patrol evaluates the scene at the April 13, 2017, officer-involved shooting of Michael Zennie Dial II. (Photo by BOBBY MCCULLEY)

The widow of a man who was allegedly shot and killed during a pursuit in April 2017 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against White County, Sheriff Oddie Shoupe, Adam West, an officer with White County, City of Sparta, and Charlie Sims, an officer with Sparta Police Department.

The legal action was filed Feb. 2, 2018, by the attorneys representing Robin Spainhoward, widow of Michael Zennie Dial II.

  • Count I – excessive force
  • Count II – deliberate indifference (policy)
  • Count III – failure to train/supervise
  • Count IV – punitive damages

The lawsuit states Dial was shot and killed “without justification and in violation of his constitutional rights.”

According to the lawsuit, on April 13, 2017, Dial was stopped by law enforcement in a parking lot, in DeKalb County. During this stop, officers with Smithville Police Department learned Dial’s driver license was suspended.

The lawsuit states it was determined Dial had not committed any crime. However, he was told he was not free to drive away in his vehicle because his driver license was suspended.

Dial was reportedly later observed by Smithville police driving his 1976 Chevrolet pick-up truck, with a fully loaded trailer in tow. Smithville police attempted to stop Dial for driving on a suspended license.

According to the lawsuit, Dial did not stop and continued driving along Tennessee State Highway 70 toward White County.

Tennessee Highway Patrol was contacted and continued the pursuit into White County.

Dial entered into White County and later the City of Sparta. When he did so, White County sheriff’s deputies and Sparta police officers joined in the pursuit.

The lawsuit states while traveling along State Highway 111 northbound at speeds of approximately 50 miles per hour, White County deputies and Sparta police officers attempted to stop Dial by utilizing what is known as a “pit maneuver.”

Several officers employed by each of the governmental defendants were unsuccessful in their efforts to stop Dial. However, their failed efforts resulted in them damaging their own patrol vehicles.

According to the lawsuit, Dial continued to travel northbound, on Highway 111, north of Sparta, in a remote area, at speeds of approximately 50 miles per hour.

The lawsuit claims that at no point after turning onto Highway 111 did Dial pose a threat to any members of the public. Dashcam video reportedly indicates Dial was in reasonable control of his vehicle.

According to the lawsuit, Shoupe, upon hearing his deputies were attempting to use the pit maneuver, communicated to instead use deadly force.

The lawsuit states Shoupe entered the order to use deadly force solely to prevent damage to patrol cars and for no legitimate law enforcement purpose.

Upon hearing the command to use deadly force, the lawsuit states defendant West immediately unholstered his gun, while White County Deputy Brandon Young ignored the command and continued his efforts to utilize the pit maneuver.

According to the lawsuit, Young was successful in causing Dial to veer sideways off the highway into a ditch-like area on the side of the road.

The lawsuit states that when Dial’s vehicle was driven off the road and toward the ditch-like area, there was no imminent safety threat that required the use of deadly force.

According to the lawsuit, when West was able to get Dial in his line of sight, he immediately reached out the driver’s side window with his left hand and fired three shots at Dial. The lawsuit states West fired the three shots at Dial because he was expressly ordered to do so by Shoupe.

Dial’s vehicle continued off to the right side of Highway 111 onto a steep embankment.

According to the lawsuit, West stopped his vehicle, exited, and continued to fire shots at Dial until his magazine was empty, allegedly striking Dial with at least one of these shots.

The lawsuit states Sparta Police Officer Charlie Sims saw the Dial vehicle wrecking and turned his patrol car around on Highway 111 facing the general direction of Dial.

Sims exited his vehicle and allegedly fired approximately four or five shots as Dial drove past him on the adjoining embankment. According to the lawsuit, Sims struck Dial with at least one of these shots.

The lawsuit states Dial then crashed his vehicle into the tree line, which was below and parallel to Highway 111 northbound.

West allegedly reloaded his firearm and fired an additional shot at Dial several seconds after he crashed.

According to the lawsuit, Dial was non-responsive as law enforcement approached his vehicle, and he was immediately pulled from his vehicle.

The lawsuit states Young noted the bullet hole in Dial’s head, as well as Dial’s blood-covered white shirt. Dial was airlifted to Saint Thomas Highlands Medical Center, in Sparta, and was later pronounced dead as a result of the shooting.

According to the lawsuit, shortly after the shooting, Shoupe admitted he had preferred to shoot and kill Dial rather than risk damaging his patrol cars.

The lawsuit states that Shoupe, while discussing the death of Dial with another deputy, stated, “I told him, I said ‘take him out. Damn, I don’t give a s—. He said ‘we’ll ram him’, I said ‘don’t ram him, shoot him.’ F— that shit. Ain’t gonna tear my cars up. But I got two cars tore up again.”

In the same conversation, Shoupe allegedly said,“Let me tell you something (Deputy) Gaw, if they don’t think I’ll give the order to kill that mother f—-r, they’re full of s—.”

The lawsuit states Shoupe continued the conversation, expressing his disappointment for not being there while the action was happening and how much he loves these situations, stating, “I love this s—. I thrive on it.”

According to the lawsuit, although not physically present, Shoupe gave the command to use deadly force and kill Dial. The lawsuit states the command could easily be characterized as a command to commit murder. The command was then followed by West.

According to the lawsuit, Dial was not armed at any point, and there was no firearm in the vehicle.

The lawsuit states that neither the Sparta police officers nor the White County sheriff’s deputies were ever advised that the suspect was armed.

A jury trail is demanded, according to the lawsuit. Spainhoward’s attorneys are David J. Weismann, Benjamin K. Raybin, and J. Michael Shipman III.

comments » 9

  1. Comment by Carol L Abston

    February 8, 2018 at 7:56 am

    This did not have to happen. Mr. Dial was in the wrong but he did not have to be taken out this way.

  2. Comment by Norris Cole

    February 8, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Driving with suspended license in any state is against the law. Putting other persons at risk including law enforcement is against the law. Did Mr. Dial tell the officers he was unarmed? No.
    Why did this happen? No respect for law and order. Ask cities about those who committed crimes and were shot because of no respect for law. Ask Nashville, Birmingham, Atlanta.

  3. Comment by Diane

    February 9, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    This was NOT a killing offense. At no time did this Dial pose a threat to the public or the police officers; You can tell that in the video.
    Gung-Ho trigger happy is what they are!

  4. Comment by Palmer

    February 9, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    The Sheriff is no better than any person who murders or orders the murder of another. Actually, he is worse because he is supposed to be a better person and a professional person.

    Based upon his actions, I question the character of the entire department. He set’s the example for those under him to follow. If everyone has his mentality then why should any citizen feel safe.

    A reasonable professional Law Enforcement Officer would not have given the order, taken those shots nor made the comments.

    If there are any Law Enforcement Officers who read this, you should know that a pursuit can be discontinued and warrants obtained for the known suspect. If it’s not worth giving your own life up, possibly hurting an innocent person or taking a life, just stop.

    I offer condolences to the family of Mr. Dial.

  5. Comment by theant51

    February 10, 2018 at 6:47 am

    Equal opportunity crime fighter this sheriff was.

  6. Comment by Mike Hodges

    February 10, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    This appears to be murder, plain and simple. The words and actions of Shoupe indicate he is unfit to serve the public and should be relieved of his duties as sheriff pending outcome of trial.

  7. Comment by Diane

    February 10, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    This has sure gone viral, from New York, Washing DC, California, & everywhere in between.

  8. Comment by Wendy

    February 11, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    It’s simple…..if he’d stopped, he’d be alive.

  9. Comment by Youaskedforit

    February 13, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Why is no one outraged at the conversation that happened afterward? The guilt or innocence of the driver is moot when you consider we have a sheriff that has admitted he thrives on situations that lead to death. He seemed genuinely happy about it. That’s scary for all of us. It gives us a glimpse into his head and I don’t like what I see.


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