LAWRENCEVILLE - A Fulton County Police Department officer claims in a lawsuit that Duluth police issued a gun and badge to a known alcoholic with a track record of mental illness and rage.
Fulton County police Cpl. Paul Phillips and his wife, Stephanie, have lodged a civil suit against the city of Duluth, two of its top-ranking police officials and a former officer accused of shooting the plaintiff, according to paperwork filed Jan. 29 in Gwinnett State Court.
On Feb. 1 last year, Phillips stopped his cruiser to help a female motorist who was reportedly being pummeled on a Sugar Hill road by Jay Dailey, then an off-duty Duluth police officer. The officers exchanged gunfire, hitting each other once - Phillips in his left elbow area, Dailey in the hand, investigators have said.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount to cover Phillips' medical expenses, pain and suffering compensation and attorney fees, while urging Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris to settle the matter out of court.
Phillips, the suit claims, has endured "excruciating pain and suffering," is permanently disabled and has not been able to return to work since the shooting.
It also sheds light on what allegedly happened in the clash between officers, claiming:
· Dailey, wearing a bulletproof vest and flashing his badge, shot the fully uniformed Phillips with his city-issued pistol;
· After Phillips shot Dailey and held him at gunpoint, the latter admitted he "drank much" Absolut Vodka and had taken anti-depressants Prozac and Lexapro;
· Dailey later admitted to Gwinnett police officers he "was out of my mind and have many issues" and that he "should have never been hired" as a police officer;
· Dailey was arrested by Gwinnett police in September 2003 for threatening neighbors with several weapons, identifying himself as a deputy with the Fulton County Sheriff's Department, his former employer.
Following a Gwinnett Daily Post open records request, a representative with the Fulton County Sheriff's Department said in March that no disciplinary files exist for Dailey.
The suit further claims that Duluth police Chief Randy Belcher and others negligently hired Dailey, a five-year veteran, before his termination last February, despite past bouts with alcoholism.
Belcher was out of his office Thursday afternoon and could not be reached for comment. The department's spokesman, Maj. Don Woodruff, is prohibited from discussing pending litigation, he said.
According to the suit, Dailey took a leave of absence from the Duluth Police Department to be treated for alcoholism. At the time of his arrest, Duluth police officials called Dailey an exemplary officer without a blemish on his record. "I do not recall any serious incidents at all involving (Dailey)," Belcher said at the time.
Holly Hance, co-counsel for the Phillips family, declined to discuss a possible settlement.
"We haven't put a total on it," Hance said. "(Expenses) will continue to accrue based on (Phillips') pain and suffering."
The city's attorney, Lee Thompson, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Phillips, a former traffic investigator, spent 13 days in Gwinnett Medical Center for initial surgeries, leaving on Valentine's Day last year.
Dailey remains in the Gwinnett County Jail without bond. He pleaded not guilty in June to 11 counts, including four counts of aggravated assault.
Prosecutors say Dailey attacked the unarmed motorist and pointed his pistol at two bystanders before shooting Phillips on Level Creek Road, less than a mile from both of the officers' homes.
The case is awaiting placement on a trial calendar, prosecutors have said.