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Tennessee police stood by and watched a man drown for 13 minutes, lawsuit says

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Photo released by the Knoxville Police Department

Photo released by the Knoxville Police Department.@Knoxville_PD/Twitter

  • A lawsuit alleges that four police officers stood by and watched a man drown for 13 minutes.

  • Mika Wheeler Clabo, 30, drowned in the Tennessee River after becoming trapped by vines.

  • His mother is suing the officers for violating her son’s civil rights in a wrongful death case.

Tennessee police stood by and watched a man drown for 13 minutes, a newly filed lawsuit says.

On the morning of July 25, 2022, Mika Wheeler Clabo found himself in the Tennessee River after appearing to flee from a Knoxville Police Department officer.

Trapped by vines, Clabo struggled to free himself and gasped for air as he battled to keep his head above the water.

A new lawsuit, seen by Insider, alleges that four police officers “refused to make a single rescue attempt and inexplicably warned off private rescuers, resulting in the victim’s death by drowning.”

His mother, Kimberly Williams-Clabo, is now suing the officers, as well as the police chief and the city of Knoxville, for violating her son’s civil rights and for wrongful death.

The suit says that Clabo had previously struggled with heroin and had recently relapsed when he was seen “acting erratically.”

A police officer approached Clabo, who fled toward the water. Clabo then fell into the river at 10:14 a.m., at which point a rescue boat was called.

More officers arrived at the scene, but they all seemed content that Clabo was “not going anywhere,” with one allegedly telling him to “relax” and “hang out down there, dude” — despite witnesses saying Clabo was “struggling hard” to keep his head above water, according to the suit.

At 10:27 a.m., Clabo’s head disappeared under the water, per the suit, which added that a medical examiner determined the cause of death to be accidental drowning.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, alleges that by not acting themselves to help Clabo, and by warning bystanders not to help, the officers contributed to Clabo’s death.

The suit says that the officers “acted with no urgency whatsoever throughout the incident to respond to the life-or-death situation.”

“Mika deserved better than what he got … from people who were supposed to be first responders,” his mother’s lawyer, Lance Baker, told The Washington Post.

“The first responders were essentially bystanders looking on,” Baker added.

The Knoxville Police Department released a statement on Friday addressing the lawsuit.

“While Mika Clabo’s death was undoubtedly tragic, the KPD officers involved did not respond inappropriately, and the city will vigorously defend this lawsuit,’ it said, adding: “The officers immediately called for assistance from additional specialized resources, and any suggestion that they prevented reasonable or safe attempts to rescue Mr. Clabo is not supported by the facts.”

Read the original article on Insider



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