Isaiah Whatley, one of six men exonerated in a 2018 Greenwood Mall shooting, filed a lawsuit against the City of Greenwood, now-retired Greenwood Police Chief Gerald Brooks, former Lt. Mike Dixon and Capt. Mitchell McAllister.
The complaint, filed Thursday by attorneys Robert J. Butcher and Deborah J. Butcher of Camden, said Brooks, Dixon and McAllister “falsely charged citizens by fabricating fraudulent grounds to arrest in order to induce those citizens to assist the municipality and its officers in investigation.”
The filing also claimed the Greenwood Police Department violated Whatley’s civil rights “by intentionally, or with a reckless disregard for the truth, wantonly, and negligently and falsely accusing him of the crimes of (attempted murder, possession of a weapon and breach of peace aggravated in nature).”
The complaint argued this damaged Whatley’s reputation, mental health and enjoyment of life.
“He is a man with such a promising future who was thrown into jail with no evidence and drug through this for two years, simply because law enforcement thought he might have information that they could use,” Deborah Butcher said. “This was a case where nobody had any clue of who the shooter was, against the other defendants either.”
Greenwood Police Department Public Information Officer Jonathan Link said Friday afternoon the lawsuit had not yet been served against Brooks, Dixon and McAllister. Link said the department will cooperate with legal proceedings brought against it.
Brooks, who retired as police chief in early June, and City Manager Julie Wilkie did not respond to phone messages.
Whatley, Shyheim Alston, Shyheim Freeman, Shyheim Reed, Narkevious Reid and Antonio Williams were arrested in connection with the 2018 shooting at the Greenwood Mall. All were charged with attempted murder and prosecuted as a group under the “hand of one, hand of all” rule.
Circuit Court Judge Eugene Griffith voided all 18 indictments, requiring the 8th Circuit Solicitor’s Office to reindict the men.
Prosecutors tried to use witness testimony and security video from the mall to make the case that the six men were chasing Isaiah Brown when shots were fired. However, there was no footage of the shooting and no video that showed any of the men holding a gun. Brown did not appear in court at any point in the trial and did not cooperate with investigators or implicate any of the six men.
“I think it’s huge that the trial judge dismissed this without putting it to the jury,” Butcher said. “That certainly helps reputation-wise, but any criminal accusation — it’s like the bell: once it’s rung, people cannot unhear it.”
Butcher noted Whatley was a senior in high school at the time of his arrest. She said he finished his school year with online classes and was not allowed to walk at his graduation.
After the six men were acquitted, Black Lives Matter — Greenwood advocated for Brooks and McAllister to resign after a microphone picked up an obscene comment McAllister made in private about Alston.
Butcher said the Black Lives Matter movement and national reckoning on race relations and police are relevant in Whatley’s suit.
“We have this Black Lives Matter movement and a lot of it is because of this,” Butcher said. “The way minorities are treated by the police, as if the life they have isn’t worth making sure there’s probable cause to derail their life, like it did Mr. Whatley’s. It was like there was no concern to the track he was on.”