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Federal lawsuit against Sumner County law enforcement dismissed by judge

By Erin McCullough,


HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WRKN) — A civil rights lawsuit filed against Sumner County agencies and a Hendersonville police officer has been dismissed by a federal judge.

Judge Aleta A. Trauger granted a motion to dismiss by the agencies and officer, citing several procedural issues with the initial complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

According to the order, James Hochstetler, of Hendersonville, filed suit against the City of Hendersonville, the Hendersonville Police Department and a specific officer involved in a May 2020 shooting incident. His complaint states officers arrived at his home and “became aggressive” with him, knocking him to the ground, using a Taser on him, and ultimately shooting him “from point blank range.”

The City of Hendersonville released more details of the incident at hand, stating officers were called to Hochstetler’s residence in response to a call of a drunk male assaulting a woman. She was reportedly able to get away from him and hide in the bed of a nearby truck. Officers reportedly met with Hochstetler outside the residence, near the garage.

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According to the city, officers asked him to move off the landing either into the house or into the garage, but the man refused. Officers also asked him to remove his hands from his pockets, which he also refused. The city said officers then tried to remove the man’s hands from his pockets to place him in handcuffs, and a struggle ensued for more than six minutes. The man was also Tased several times with no effect.

As the fight continued, Hendersonville said, the man grabbed one officer’s Taser and attempted to grab an officer’s gun. The officer fired one round, which hit the man, but he continued fighting officers. They were eventually able to handcuff him and render first aid to the man.

According to the city, the man later said he was intoxicated and “wanted to die that night,” trying to get the officers to kill him. He reportedly had a blood alcohol content of 0.206 and evidence of amphetamine in his system, the city said.

Officers later discovered Hochstetler was a veteran with hand-to-hand combat training, according to the city. They also learned there were two children in the home at the time of the assault.

In her ruling, Trauger identified an issue with the case: a previous filing on Hochstetler’s behalf in 2022 through someone identified as a “power of attorney” who was not a licensed attorney. That 2022 filing was never signed by a lawyer nor Hochstetler himself, which the City of Hendersonville noted in its motion to dismiss. The Court acknowledged both the previous filing and the 2023 suit. The Court said that initial filing was not made until after the statute of limitation had passed.

The City of Hendersonville immediately filed a motion to dismiss, citing the late timing of Hochstetler’s initial suit and that the filing was never signed by himself. Additionally, the city said it was never properly served, meaning the suit could not move forward legally.

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The Court agreed with the city, saying the complaint was “barred by the one-year statute of limitations” and Hochstetler did not provide required evidence that his case should be “saved” using the Tennessee “saving statue,” which allows lawsuits to continue within one year after the statute of limitations has passed. Since Hochstetler’s alleged harm occurred in 2020, he would have had to initially sue in 2021; however, he waited until more than two years afterward to try to bring an action.

Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary issued a statement on the dismissal Friday morning, saying the whole thing was “a sad situation from many perspectives.”

“The individual served our country and deserves our appreciation. We hope that he receives the help he needs and finds healing soon,” Clary said. “Our officers saved this man’s life. They saved their own lives. Possibly they saved the lives of the woman, two children and a witness. I cannot express enough the appreciation I have for what they did when they were faced with threats to several lives.

“Unfortunately, the individual chose to sue us. The City defended itself and had the suit dismissed. This extremely distressing incident was managed by our officers who responded as well as any person could have. I am very proud that our officers continue to keep the people of Hendersonville safe despite dangers that confront our officers.”

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