Peter Hopkins spent the past 19 months eagerly awaiting his day in court, and not only because he wanted to defend himself against charges that he resisted arrest after getting into a fight at a downtown Bloomington bar in January 2004.
Hopkins' refusal to accept plea bargains offered by Prosecutor Carl Salzmann's office was motivated by a desire to show a jury what happened to him that winter day. Jailers repeatedly stunned him with a 50,000-volt Taser gun, even though three of them said in written reports that the shocks had no effect on his behavior.
"During the course of wrestling with inmate Hopkins, I drive stunned him about 10 times with little effect," Jailer Jimmy Edwards wrote in his report on the incident.
It was 19 times, Hopkins said. And he has pictures to prove it. Taken two days after his arrest, the photographs show burn marks covering his body, on his front and back sides, from his neck to his crotch.
Hopkins was scheduled to go to trial Aug. 25 on misdemeanor charges of resisting law enforcement and disorderly conduct. But after Monroe Circuit Judge Marc Kellams on Aug. 4 denied a motion from the state to keep the Taser pictures out of court, prosecutors indicated they would drop the charges.
Deputy Prosecutor Shelly McBride Wu said she could not speak to the media about the case. She referred calls to Deputy Prosecutor Amy Travis, who did not return multiple messages before the Alternative's deadline.
Hopkins' public defender called him on Aug. 19 to tell him the charges had indeed been dropped.
Hopkins' ordeal began at a pool table in the Jungle Room bar on Kirkwood, where he worked as a bouncer. He wasn't working that winter afternoon when he had an altercation with four men.
In statements to the police, three of the men said they were shooting pool and that Hopkins repeatedly challenged them to play for money, called one of them a "puss," and grabbed and smacked another in the face.
Hopkins said he did challenge the men to shoot pool and did call them pussies. But he insists he wasn't looking for a fight, until one of them blind-sided him with a punch from behind. "I had a whole different attitude after that," he said.
In her report on the incident, Bloomington Police Officer Monica Zahasky, the first to arrive on the scene, said the pub's owner had called and said Hopkins was "highly intoxicated and starting to fight with customers." She said he was uncooperative when she asked for identification and had to be told three times to keep his hands out of his pockets.
The 34-year-old Hopkins said his identification was in his wallet, in his pocket, and that he couldn't both show his ID and keep his hands out of his pocket. He dropped his wallet the third time Zahasky asked, after another BPD officer had arrived, and bent over to pick it up.
"He tased me in the back," Hopkins said. "Then I was pissed."
BPD did not return phone calls to the Alternative, but a spokeswoman reiterated the point that Hopkins said the department has made throughout — city police do not carry Tasers. Hopkins notes that average citizens can buy Tasers at just about any gun store.
In her report, Zahasky said Hopkins, who was handcuffed and shackled downtown, resisted being handcuffed, lunged and kicked at officers, and vomited on the street. He continued to resist at the jail and was tased there, she said.
No fewer than six jailers responded to Hopkins in the intake and detox areas at the county jail. All wrote in reports that Hopkins was insulting, threatening, combative, and, at one point spit on a jailer.
Jailer Edwards wrote that he "demonstrated the x26 Taser to Inmate Hopkins" and told him to calm down before removing his handcuffs. But at the entrance to the drunk tank, Hopkins stopped, pushed himself against the door, and began questioning why he was in jail and how long he would be there.
One jailer said Hopkins lunged, another said he charged, but both said jailers Edwards and Chris Hutton wrestled Hopkins to the ground, with Edwards tasing him multiple times.
Five to six jailers restrained and shackled Hopkins, according to the reports.They placed him in a restraint chair and put a spit shield on him.
"Inmate Hopkins did not appear to be phased by the Taser," jailer Johnny D. McGlothlin wrote.
"The Taser had little effect on inmate Hopkins," jailer Edwards wrote.
Monroe County Sheriff Steve Sharp said the Taser is a law enforcement tool that can reduce injury and harm to officers and inmates alike.
"The other option is striking with a baton or something along those lines," he said in a telephone interview. The Taser delivers 50,000 volts of electricity that momentarily incapacitates violent individuals so officers can gain control.
A Taser shocks in two ways, Sharp said.
It can shoot "probes" — fishhook-like electrical contacts — that penetrate the skin and deliver the shock directly into the muscles, known as "tasing." Or it can be used in direct contact with the skin, with no penetration, known as "drive stun."
Hopkins was drive stunned, Sharp said.
"Drive stun is just basic sensory," he said "It doesn't affect the central nervous system per se. It's just on the surface of the skin."
Jail policy on the "use of force" implemented on June 15 limits the use of tasing. "The advanced Taser shall never be deployed more than three consecutive times," it said.
"We're not talking about drive stunning," Sharp said "We are talking about using the probes. They recommend no more than three times."
There were no such restrictions in place when Hopkins was arrested, though the sheriff's department did have guidelines on Tasers that said their use should be "reasonable and necessary" and they should "never be used punitively or for the purpose of coercion."
Sharp and Jail Commander Bill Wilson said Tasers are now rarely used in the jail. They said there had only been one incident since an inmate died at the jail in November 2003 after being shocked with a Taser.
In a case that made the national evening news and helped spark a societal debate over the use of Tasers, the Monroe County Coroner ruled that multiple electroshocks jailers inflicted on James Borden contributed to his death.
Sharp and Wilson, however, were unaware of the Hopkins case and did not include it in their tally.
Hopkins version of events differs with Sharp and the jailers', on every count. He said the jailers' reports are "full of a bunch of bullshit."
Rather than "demonstrating" his Taser, Hopkins said, Edwards stuck it "two inches in front of my nose."
"They provoked me to react," he said. "I didn't hit any cops. I didn't throw any punches at anybody."
As for the Taser being a legitimate law enforcement tool: "It's their little toy," he said. "It was their secret weapon. And they were going to use it."
And whether he was tased or drive stunned doesn't matter to Hopkins. He was shocked 19 times with 50,000 volts of electricity, on the neck, the chest, the nipple, the back, and the crotch.
The incident left him with burns all over his body, he said. He could hardly walk or turn his head for days afterward.
He also said he spent seven hours restrained in a chair, long after he had sobered up.
Hopkins points out that his tasing followed by two months almost to the day Borden's death on the same jailhouse floor.
A special prosecutor subsequently charged jailer David Shaw with two felony charges of battery with a deadly weapon in the Borden case. Shaw's prosecution is on hold while he appeals legal issues in the case.
Unfortunately, Hopkins said, proof of what happened that January evening may never come out because the Sheriff's department, apparently, did not follow its own policy on use of force.
Jail policy states that all use of force shall be documented and videotaped, and that "all documentation, including the videotape, shall be maintained for a minimum of two and-one-half years."
Previous, high-profile cases like James Borden's have demonstrated that video cameras are always on in the jail.
And Hopkins said documents from the sheriff's department indicate that the incident was videotaped. But the prosecution never produced the tape.
Telephone messages to Sharp seeking clarification and copies of any tapes that may exist had not been returned by the Alternative's deadline.
Tape or no tape, Hopkins said his pictures show that the police used excessive force to subdue him.
"I got worked over by the Bloomington Police Department and the Sheriff's Department," he said. "That didn't need to happen. ... They were never threatened by me. And if they were, they should have been able to handle it."
Steven Higgs can be reached at .