LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Louisville man sues police over alleged beating last year


A Fern Creek man who claims Louisville Metro Police officers assaulted him last year after a basketball game in Okolona has filed a lawsuit against the officers, alleging he was attacked without provocation.

Shawn Gellhaus, who was 19 when the incident occurred on June 18, 2010, claims officers slammed him to the ground repeatedly and punched, kicked and choked him before he was hog tied and thrown into a police cruiser.

Gelhaus, whose uncle is a Louisville Metro Police officer, also alleges that he suffered serious injuries but was denied immediate emergency medical treatment and held captive for "a period of time" before being taken to University Hospital.

Thomas Clay, Gellhaus' attorney, said he believes police violated policies and procedures in investigating the incident and he hopes the lawsuit will answer several questions about "how this whole episode was handled."

"I want to find out what their version is," he said.

The suit, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court on June 17, names Major James Harper, Sgt. Rick Huber, Sgt. Brent Mattingly, Officer Russell Miller and Officer Amy Bowman as defendants, accusing them of acting maliciously and recklessly.

Claims made in filing a lawsuit present only one side of a case.

Dwight Mitchell, a police spokesman, said neither the department nor officers could comment on pending litigation.

The department's public integrity unit investigated the incident and cleared the officers involved, Mitchell said.

The incident occurred on a basketball court in the 6400 block of Outer Loop, when Gellhaus and some friends came to play late at night.

In an interview last year, Gellhaus, who was not charged, said three friends left him there after an hour or so and he remembers being very hot from playing and deciding to take off his clothes because he was alone.

The next thing Gellhaus remembered, he said in the interview, was a hand on the back of his neck, then having his face slammed into the ground and a mask put over his face.

Zach Willette, a friend of Gellhaus for four years, said last year that he had heard from friends that Gellhaus was acting strangely. Willette said he went to the court to check on his friend and found him naked and extremely sweaty.

Gellhaus would not respond to him or drink any water when Willette said he asked. Gellhaus would only walk around, saying "yeah" repeatedly, Willette said.

A girlfriend of one of Willette's friends called police because they were worried, Willette said.

About 12 officers arrived, and Willette watched things unfold from about 50 feet away. Gellhaus did not respond to the officers, but was not being confrontational or trying to flee, he said.

At one point, Willette said, several officers slammed Gellhaus to the ground face first, and he said he saw Gellhaus being twisted on his neck. Other officers blocked his view after that, he said.

Clay said he believes Gellhaus suffered heat stroke or some other illness that night and that at 5-feet-10 and 120 pounds, he was not a threat to the officers.

Gellhaus has said he hadn't taken any drugs that night and he and his aunt, Heather Bottoms, told the newspaper last year that hospital staff told them they found no trace of drugs in his system.

That could not be confirmed on Monday. The Courier-Journal has requested a copy of the police department's investigative file.