The man indicted on charges of attempted murder and assault of a Metro police officer is suing the officer and the police department after a bullet fired from the officer’s gun paralyzed him.
Michael J. Smith III, 53, filed suit in U.S. District Court Tuesday, claiming that either improper training or violation of the police department’s policy on using deadly force led to him being paralyzed from the chest down in a confrontation with police last April.
Smith is seeking a judgment for unspecified punitive damages as well as for permanent disability and loss of enjoyment of life. The suit lists Officer Chad Barth, the Metro Nashville Police Department and Metro government.
Last spring, Smith worked for Document Technologies Inc. and was assigned to perform courier services for the law firm of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs. The law firm had provided Smith with a credit card owned by the firm to purchase supplies. According to Smith, the firm allowed him to purchase a cell phone with the credit card, though he also bought a plane ticket to Miami with it.
On April 28, 2010, Smith went to the law firm at 2525 West End to pay back the personal charges, according to the suit, which he made on the credit card. At the same time, however, Barth had responded to the law firm for the reported theft of the credit card.
Barth approached Smith in the parking garage behind the law firm and tried to place him under arrest. But Smith, who claimed he wasn’t told why he was under arrest, got back into his car, at which point Barth pulled his gun and pointed it at Smith.
Smith claimed he then started to back out of the parking space because he feared for his life. As he was backing out, Barth fell to the ground — Smith claimed he slipped, police immediately following the incident claimed Smith’s open door knocked Barth down as the car backed up. When Smith tried to drive away, Barth fired several shots into the car, one of which hit Smith, severing his spinal cord.
Smith spent several months in a hospital and is now in a special needs facility of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, according to a court filing.
In February, a Davidson County grand jury indicted Smith on multiple charges including credit card fraud, identity theft, vandalism and reckless endangerment as well as the attempted first-degree murder and assault of an officer.
The criminal case involving those charges is still pending.