Sep. 18—Chattanooga police opened an investigation this week into a man's claim that he was assaulted by a group of teenagers downtown last weekend.
The assault became a sensation on social media, and a political issue, but police say some aspects of the uproar have not been substantiated.
The man, Chattanooga resident and warehouse company employee Stuart Doster, alleged he was attacked by “5-6 teenagers” as he was walking toward his car on Cherry Street, near Buffalo Wild Wings and the Market Street Bridge. He made the claim in a viral post he made on Facebook on Sunday evening.
The post, just under 24 hours after he said the incident took place, had been shared more than 800 times as of Friday afternoon.
Doster claimed that all of the teenagers were dressed in red shirts and that the attack started when one of them punched him in the face unexpectedly.
He said “3-4 other guys” tackled him after the initial punch was thrown and began kicking him in the ribs, throat and head. He said the teenagers then pushed him into “an old, red sedan” that he believed to be a Toyota Corolla, but he was able to fight his way out. Once out of the car, Doster said he witnessed another man who looked to be in his mid-40s being beaten across the street by another group of multiple people. The two briefly made eye contact, Doster said, while they were under attack.
“I offered my wallet, phone, watch and keys to these kids. They did not want any of it, oddly enough,” he said. “Based on my experience, I would guess this was some type of gang initiation directive. I do not post on Facebook often, so I hope this can change or save lives in one way or another. Travel in packs. Keep an eye on your surroundings. Protect yourself.”
Weston Wamp, whose sister Coty Wamp last month announced her intention to challenge Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston in the May 2022 election, was among those responding to the post.
He said he had spoken to Doster a couple of times during the day and called on local police to “hunt down the gangbangers” who attacked him.
“In the meantime, be vigilant. Violent gang crime is an epidemic in our community. It breeds hopelessness in our inner city,” Wamp said. “It's time for elected leaders to step up and put the screws of the law to thugs like these so that Chattanooga is a safe place for families like yours and mine.”
Despite these claims being posted to Facebook late Sunday night, Chattanooga Police Department spokesperson Elisa Myzal said a police report was not filed with police until later Monday evening after an officer with the department saw the post and reached out to Doster directly about the alleged incident. That evening a report for simple assault was filed and an investigation was opened.
Officers said Doster had abrasions and sought medical attention after he filed the police report.
Myzal said officers attempted to follow up with Doster twice with no success after the investigation began.
“After obtaining information and evidence, the officers attempted to follow up with the complainant who declined to speak with them again,” she said. “The officers followed up with the complainant again on Tuesday to no avail.”
He posted to Facebook on Tuesday to address the incident. He said that he would be getting rid of his account because of the “extraordinary amounts of evil behavior/comments” sent his way by those who did not believe his story about what occurred.
“Thank you to those who have taken my encounter seriously,” he said in the post. “No reason to lie and I have nothing to prove to naysayers.”
At this time, Myzal said the investigation does not indicate any “gang initiation activity” was conducted nor that a kidnapping was attempted. She also stated that while police are aware of safety concerns some community members have expressed after hearing about the incident, there have been some comments made on social media platforms and in posts that cannot be substantiated.
Interim police chief Eric Tucker encouraged the community not to share stories on Facebook that might do more harm than good.
“In our current climate with social media, let's not poke holes in the fabric of our community by sharing stories or inflammatory remarks that are meant to tear others down or incite fear or anger,” Tucker said.
The Chattanooga Police Department asked that anyone who may have witnessed or have video of the incident call 423-698-2525. The date and time police are interested in Sept. 12, 2021, between midnight and 1 a.m. on the 100 block of Market Street, Second Street between Market and Cherry streets and the 200 block of Cherry Street.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.Internet Explorer Channel Network