Local family claims assault by Madison Co. Sheriff’s Deputy; Madison Co. Sheriff launches internal investigation

A Jackson family says they were assaulted by Madison County Sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop should have never even happened. The Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office says they are now conducting an internal investigation into the incident. 

Reem Cooper, his sister Ashley Thomas, and Cooper’s 15-year-old son were arrested around 2 a.m. Friday, July 7, on Campbell Street, between North Parkway and North Highland Avenue. Thomas says the three of them were picking up medication at the Midtown Walgreens for Cooper when they were followed by an unmarked police vehicle and eventually arrested by that deputy.

“That definitely was unjust,” Ashley Thomas said in an interview, “There was no cause for the actions of the officer. My brother is not a belligerent, loud cursing. None of that even went on in the video. It was just clearly, ‘I want you to tell me why you’re doing this,’ because he’s already scared out of his mind and he’s afraid something’s going to happen.”

Timeline of Events

Thomas provided two videos to The Jackson Post. The first video is about a minute-and-a-half long and does not have sound. It shows what appears to be the reason Cooper was pulled over. The video perspective is from Ashley Thomas, in the passenger seat of Cooper’s vehicle, as he drives through the neighborhood off Campbell St. near N. Parkway. 

Through the rain, the video shows a white unmarked Ford Explorer parked at a stop sign in the distance. As Cooper’s vehicle approaches to turn onto that street, he stops directly in front of the Explorer, then backs up and goes around the left side of the Explorer, on the wrong side of the street. 

“So when we got ready to take the left, we couldn’t turn in there,” Thomas explained in an interview, “The vehicle was literally in the middle of the road with super bright lights on. So my brother kind of stopped right there and was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t get by. Like what is this?’ 

“And you know, we’re still not identifying at first that this is the police, but something told me to keep recording because this is strange. So we couldn’t go anywhere other than to the left side of the vehicle, because the truck was not on its side of the road at all. So we go to the left side to go around and keep going down the road.”

Shortly after that, the video shows blue lights, Cooper’s vehicle stops and the video ends

The second video is about 10 minutes long. It is also from Thomas’ perspective in the passenger seat of the vehicle. That video shows the Sheriff’s Deputy knocking on the back driver’s side window. Cooper then directs him to the driver’s window, which is rolled down about an inch. The deputy asks him to roll his window down farther, Cooper says that is as far as it will go. Then, the deputy asks him to unlock his door. 

“First of all, you can finish our conversation. Is this a criminal stop or a traffic stop?” Cooper asks. 

“This is a traffic stop based upon a criminal violation,” the deputy responds. 

“What kind of criminal violation?” Cooper asks. 

The deputy does not respond, and Cooper repeats the question. 

For about four minutes, this interaction continues. The deputy asks Cooper to roll down the window or get out of the vehicle. Cooper repeatedly asks why he was pulled over. Then the deputy tells Cooper he is being pulled over because he traveled in the wrong lane of traffic. Cooper says it was because the deputy was parked in the middle of the road. 

Then the deputy tells Cooper to get out of the vehicle, or he will bust the window open with his baton. Cooper tells him to “feel free” as he has not committed any criminal violation. Then, the deputy asks for his name. Cooper continues to ask if this is a criminal or traffic stop. 

The deputy continues to ask Cooper to exit the vehicle, and says it is a lawful order. Cooper repeatedly says this is an “illegit stop.”

Five minutes into the video, the deputy asks for Cooper’s name again and if there are any weapons in the vehicle. Cooper continues to ask if it’s a criminal or traffic stop. 

“Didn’t you follow me down from Walgreens?” Cooper asks. 

“Yep,” the deputy responds. 

Eight minutes into the video, the deputy then tells them to watch their eyes as he breaks the window to the vehicle. 

“Go ahead and put glass in my face,” Cooper says, then turns to his sister, “Make sure you’re getting all that.”

Then, the deputy breaks the vehicle window, unbuckles Cooper, and pulls him by his left arm out of the vehicle. The deputy twists Cooper’s wrist, as Cooper tells him he has nerve damage and heart problems. 

After the first deputy lets go of Cooper’s arm, a different deputy uses a stun gun on Cooper. Cooper’s sister screams. Cooper is then pulled onto the ground and arrested. 

“He didn’t even do it from a distance,” Thomas said in the interview,”He leans in and puts the taser directly on my brother’s side right where his armpit is, directly, where they will hit directly to his chest. And just hits him, and then hits it again.”

Nine minutes into the video, the second deputy then reaches into the vehicle and tells Thomas to get out of the car. 

“Get out of the car. I’m going to tell you now to get out of the car,” the deputy says, “Get out of the car.”

“I’m a passenger,” Thomas says. 

“It doesn’t matter. I have the right to tell you to get out of the f****** car,” the deputy yells. 

“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Thomas says. 

The deputies then pull Cooper’s son and Thomas out of the vehicle, and the video ends. 

After the video

In an interview with The Post, Thomas said the deputies also used a stun gun on her nephew after he jumped away from the officers. 

“My nephew told me that they had picked him up, slammed him to the ground, and tased him,” Thomas said, “He had the tase mark on his back, the inner part of his leg, and on his side.”

Then, Cooper was transported to the hospital. 

“I hear on the radios, through their cars, that male was having heart pains now chest pains. And they didn’t even get to take him to jail. They took him immediately to the hospital,” Thomas said. 

Thomas said her brother spent the entire weekend in the hospital, handcuffed to the bed. Thomas said, even days later, he is still recovering from the incident and that is why he has not spoken in interviews. Cooper’s son refuses to leave his side. 

All three people face charges

Reem Cooper, Ashley Thomas, and Cooper’s son all face charges from the incident. 

Reem Cooper is charged with failure to maintain lane; resisting stop, halt, frisk arrest; and failure to produce identification. 

Thomas provided the warrant to The Post, written by Deputy Nickell of the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office. 

The warrant reads in part, “I was parked in the right-hand lane at the intersection of Ingram and Catalina. The vehicle made too sharp of a turn and rather than maintain its lande and pass by me in the correct lane of travel, it pulled in front of my vehicle, bumper to bumper, having exited its lane. The vehicle then passed by me on my right-hand side, coming extremely close to striking my vehicle. I then initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle which pulled into [an address on Campbell St.]. Upon making contact with the vehicle, the driver refused to roll down his window more than an inch and refused to exit the vehicle. I gave him multiple commands to exit the vehicle and to identify himself but he refused. The driver was then forcefully removed from the vehicle and taken into custody and continued to refuse to identify. A TN [drivers license] was found in the vehicle belonging to the driver and he was identified as Reem Cooper.”

Ashley Thomas is charged with resisting stop, halt, frisk arrest and failure to produce identification.

Her warrant reads in part, “Upon making contact with the vehicle, the front seat passenger refused to exit the vehicle. She was given multiple commands to exit but refused and was eventually removed and taken into custody. She refused to identify herself but a TN [drivers license] was found in the vehicle which belonged to her. She was then identified as Ashley Thomas.”

Thomas said Cooper’s 15-year-old son was also charged with resisting stop, halt, frisk arrest. The Jackson Post could not independently verify that charge, since his son is a minor.

Thomas said this is also not the first time they have had run-ins with police in Jackson. During her interview, she brought up several incidents where Cooper was pulled over, and claimed he was injured by officers. Cooper now has a dash cam for his vehicle. 

“It’s ridiculous that I have to come in with my brother either in crutches, a wheelchair, or cast, and it’s not funny. It’s not okay. And it’s kind of like what are y’all waiting on? Are y’all waiting until he’s no longer here and then we’re another family on the news crying wishing someone would have listened? That’s not what I’m waiting on,” Thomas said.

Madison County Sheriff’s Office Statement

Days after the incident, the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office released a statement regarding the traffic stop. 

“In response to recent media reports beginning on or about July 11, 2023, regarding a traffic stop involving two deputies from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the following statement is being provided. 

“On July 11, 2023, a formal complaint was filed with our office, which immediately triggered an automatic internal investigation. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office takes all complaints seriously, and we are committed to thoroughly and impartially examining the circumstances surrounding the incident in question. 

“At this time, as an ongoing investigation is underway, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office will not be able to provide specific comments or statements regarding the details of the incident. It is our policy to refrain from discussing open investigations to ensure their integrity and protect the rights of all parties involved. 

“Transparency, accountability, and maintaining the trust of our community are of utmost importance to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.”

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news