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EXTRA CONTENT: Brutality accusation against Whitley deputies settled out of court

Above, a photo taken by family members shows injuries Delbert Bray suffered during his arrest in May. He claimed they came at the hands of Whitley County Sheriff's Deputies.

Read documents related to this story by clicking here.

Accusations that three Whitley County Sheriff's deputies severely beat a local man during a traffic stop in early May were quietly settled out of court in advance of a potential lawsuit, but questions still remain surrounding the details of exactly what transpired that led to the legal wrangling in the first place.

The Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO), on behalf of the Whitley County Fiscal Court, agreed recently to pay 53-year-old Delbert Bray an undisclosed amount of money to resolve claims he made regarding the conduct of Sheriff's deputies Ken Shepherd, John Hill and Joe Prewitt earlier this year. The terms of the settlement are, at this time, confidential.

According to documents unearthed in a News Journal investigation of the case, Bray was in a vehicle on the night of May 5, 2012 that tried to evade a police road block set up near the intersection of Keswick Road and Fayette Lane in southern Whitley County. Police gave chase, but what happened from there depends on whom you ask.

According to a citation issued in the case by police, Bray was driving the vehicle and backed up in the roadway to avoid the checkpoint. When they went after him, he "drove through the front and side yard of the first residence on Red Hill Road and came to rest in the back yard behind the home."

Police say he tried to flee on foot, but was captured and placed under arrest.

He was taken to Baptist Regional Medical Center for medical treatment. Blood test results show that his blood/alcohol content was .16 - twice the legal limit. He was charged with third-offense DUI, fleeing or evading police and for driving on a DUI suspended license.

But Bray's attorney, P. Stewart Abney, claims in a letter to the county on Aug. 13 that his client was wrongfully charged because he was actually a passenger in the vehicle, not the driver. And, worse, Abney claims officers savagely beat his client when he would not tell them who was really driving the car.

"When Mr. Bray did not answer the officer's questions to their satisfaction, Mr. Bray was dragged out of the squad car, thrown onto a gravel driveway, and stomped and kicked numerous times, all while handcuffed."

Abney claims Bray suffered a fractured rib, and cuts and bruises to his face, left knee, chest, and shoulder. Photographs taken by family members shortly after the incident show Bray with multiple injuries. At least one of the cuts to his head required stitches. In his letter, Abney said he was authorized to settle out of court in advance of any potential lawsuit for $500,000. The offer expired Aug. 20, the same day London attorney Jason Williams, representing KACO, wrote a letter saying the dispute had been resolved. Like most Kentucky county governments, Whitley County pays into the KACO "All Lines Fund" which is, essentially, an insurance policy against claims for things like employee misconduct, property damage, etc.

Deputy Sheriff Ken Shepherd, who was the arresting officer in the case, did not return calls seeking comment on the incident.
Bray died Nov. 30 after being diagnosed with advance-stage cancer in his brain, lungs, kidney's and liver.

His sister, Ruth Elswick, said her brother would have been physically unable to flee from the police or give them much of a fight when they stopped him on May 5 because of ongoing physical problems.

"He was my baby brother and I sure didn't like what they did to him," Elswick said. "They need to get a whole different attitude. They are sworn to uphold the law themselves and they broke it ... I definitely think they should be charged with a crime."

Elswick said her brother had to be hospitalized again a day after the alleged beating due to pain he was having as a result of his injuries.

In documents obtained by the News Journal through an open records request, the Sheriff Department's version of events is initially provided by John Sparks, a Senior Litigation Examiner for KACO, in a letter to Bray's attorney dated Aug. 14.

"Based on a preliminary investigation, it appears your client was the only known occupant of the vehicle in question that evening. You are correct in the fact, your client was taken to the ER by an officer, but this was due to injuries he sustained after he fell while attempting to leave the scene."

Sparks said he got the information from the Sheriff's Department. He also wrote that Kentucky State Police were exploring Bray's allegations.

An audio recording of radio traffic between officers and the county's E-911 Dispatch Center seems to contradict the official account of the incident. An officer can be heard telling the on-duty dispatcher that one of the people that was in the vehicle fled on foot and got away, while the other, presumably Bray, was in custody. It indicates police knew he was not the only occupant of the vehicle.

Elswick claims Bray's second cousin was actually the driver of the vehicle that night. She did not provide his name.
Other strange circumstances also surround the case.

A citation was issued to Bray the night of the incident, but charges were never filed in Whitley District Court until Aug. 13.
Bray's lawyer claims that's because "... the officers and departments have attempted to cover this incident up by eliminating any record that the citation existed."

One explanation for the delay is contained within a notation handwritten on one of the documents obtained by the News Journal. It says that the letter from Bray's attorney to the county demanding a settlement reminded police that they hadn't yet filed charges in the case. They immediately did so thereafter.

Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White, Jr. would not comment on specifics of the incident, but did say he wrote down the explanation for the delay in filing the charges during a meeting with officials from KACO. He said the explanation came from Chief Deputy Sheriff K.Y. Fuson.

Abney notes in his initial letter to the county that Bray thought Williamsburg Police Officer Elijah Hunter, referred to as Elijah Hunt in the letter, was the one most responsible for the alleged beating. White clarified that Hunter was not involved in the arrest and that no Williamsburg city police officers were at the scene that night. Bray had mistaken one of the officers for Hunter.

Neither the letter, nor any of the other documents obtained by the News Journal, give specifics about which officers supposedly hit Bray.

Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell said he did not know all of the details surrounding all the arrest, but called the incident a "controversial issue," and defended his officers. He said none of the deputies involved has been sanctioned or removed from duty in the wake of the allegations or the settlement.

"It never amounted to anything ... There is not going to be a lawsuit," Harrell said.

Harrell said he was told there was a video of the arrest, but that either Bray's attorney, or a KACO lawyer, informed him it was inconclusive as to what happened.

"There was some kind of video that was mentioned by the attorney, but it never showed anything to really amount to anything," Harrell said. "This is according to the attorney."

Harrell said he was busy in a meeting and could not answer follow-up questions regarding this story Tuesday.

Elswick said she was told a video existed as well, but that it was in the possession of her brother's attorney. She had not viewed it, but said it was captured by a homeowner's security system.

Bray's attorney refused to comment on the incident or legal settlement, but said he does still represent the interests of the family.

Elswick said, as far as she knows, the family has not been provided any money from the settlement yet, but added she hopes some comes soon to help pay for the cost of Bray's funeral and burial. She added that she was afraid to speak out about the case because she feared some sort of retaliation, but decided to do so as a way to warn others of what she sees as a pattern of misconduct by police.

"I'm sure Delbert was probably mouthing off and I'm sure he was drunk, but that still didn't give them the right to hit him," Elswick said. "He's still somebody's brother, somebody's daddy and somebody's son."

"This is the kind of thing that makes me afraid of the police ... I'd be afraid to stop for them just to tell you the truth."


cheryl (December 05, 2012) Reply

i am the same way i used to teach my kids to trust the police and they are there to help , but i no longer feel that way . i think they need to get rid of all wpd and wcsd and hire all new , and not other police dept rejects, cause the ones we have are on power trips and that sound just like hunter he needs to be the first to go

Jean Val Jean (December 06, 2012) Reply

Reminds me of the silly allegations that Dalton Brewer brought against a former officer. Brewer claimed he was beat and stomped and suffered from long term injuries. He claimed he could never drive a car again. Not long after he got his money he bought a 2011 custom Mustang, since that time in 2010 he has had 4 arrests for DUI, drugs, domestic violence and as of Dec 4, he plead guilty to trafficking in drugs from a 2007 charge. Disgusting.

Becky (December 06, 2012) Reply

Well Delberts allagations were not made up. Theses officers did what Delbert said they had done. So i think it is very different from the caase that you wrote about. Delberet won't have a chance to spend his money because he has since passed. I'm sure that there are people out there that do go overboard when it comes to cases that involve suit, but I can tell you Delbert's wasn't

Observer (December 07, 2012) Reply

Earlier this year, I'm pretty sure he was arrested for DUI.

Garrett Bray (December 06, 2012) Reply

These officers should be held accountable the fact they claim Delbert was the only occupant in the vehicle an dispatch recorded an officer saying one got away an one was in custody shows there attempt at covering up there actions. There is nothing that gives them the right to beat on some one after there in custody

Larry Taylor (December 07, 2012) Reply

It may seem like small penis syndrome. But in actuality it's an intelligence issue. Low IQ officers are hired regularly to diminish the promotion pool. Not to mention the fact that if you are too "bright" you will question the logic behind illegal activities that may be going on at the Admin levels of the force or department. Can't have that!

Tammie (December 07, 2012) Reply

If this sheriff is going to defend these deputies, when there was a 911 report disputing their statements, botched paper work...then he needs to be voted out if he is going to uphold his type of brutality. These deputies get to commit crimes and get away with it, they should be held to the same law we all have to live by. It is sicken that 3 criminals (supposed deputies), assaulted a dying man. I would beat it was because he wouldn't reveal who the other person was and they decided to "beat it out if him." And to think people are so stupid to believe, "He received those injuries from a fall." Sick... I'll remember this during the next sheriffs election. These "criminals" are not only vicious but sound like idiots because they did not even stick to their "call in to 911" or to even think "hmmmm could someone receive these types of injuries from a fall." Why not say Big Foot came out of the woods and beat the guy up! Obviously the sheriff would believe it!!!!!

Jason (December 08, 2012) Reply

I don't believe in police brutality but this guy went on the run when he seen the roadblock. He was drunk as a skunk .16. Twice the legal limit. Hate the police if you want but if a drunk driver kills your family you may think a little bit different. Third offense D.U.I you would think this guy would stop putting peoples lives and your childrens lifes in danger. He should have gotten beat a little bit harder. We need treatment centers for people like this. If you think driving around with BAC of .16 support this guy. When a drunk driver kills someone love you will be wanting him or her to die.

dorothy (December 15, 2012) Reply

what they have done was bad and wrong,and ended his life.

amber anderson (March 06, 2014) Reply

Jason whoever the hell you are,delbert was my uncle and he was a good man he couldn't hurt a fly he was comical an good hearted.yeah he drinks and was drunk but that don't mean he should've got beaten a lil harder as u one deserves to be beat lock them up don't beat them.if u ask me the cops around here are jokes always harassing an making false accusations.delbert couldn't defend himself in im goin to there were several others in the car and he wasn't the one driving the one who fled on foot was driving know it all.he had a designated driver and was having them drive him if u ask me whitley co needs a new law enforcement team and needs to fire all these cops cause the reason their cocky and act like they do is cause they have low self esteems and let the job get to their head. wen in reality these cops are no better they snort pills cheat on their wives and god knows what else

Jean Val Jean (December 11, 2012) Reply

Becky; you are right the injuries are obvious. But there are two sides to every story. The sad thing about this is that Delbert died before he could ever defend himself in court. By the way, the attorney's representing Delbert are wrong; the case they are referring to was dismissed by Federal Dist Judge Van Tatenhove on Dec 17, 2010. A federal magistrate took over arbitration and there was a settlement conference. It was more economical (so they say) to pay a drug dealer than to try the case again. Brenda Taylor didn't get anything but she tried, Brewer and his girlfriend Rachel opened a strip club but the people asked for a refund when they saw the fat cows perform their strip routines.

Stephanie (December 11, 2012) Reply

Yes Delbert was drunk, and He was probably running his mouth, but that does NOT give the police the right to use brutal force to get information out of a suspect. Delbert is my cousin and I know what sort of man he was, but seriously NOBODY deserves that...He wasn't driving, Delbert COULDN'T physically drive anymore, the brain tumor caused poor motor function and it was impossible. The man could barely walk, there was no way he could "FLEE" from the cops...IF YOU DO NOT PERSONALLY know the person OR are personally involved PLEASE do not spout rediculous theories about what happened.

dorothy (December 15, 2012) Reply

what they have done was bad and wrong,and ended his life.

dorothy (December 15, 2012) Reply

what they have done was bad and wrong,and ended his life. and i know for sure he wasnt driving.delbert was my life and the cops can say what they want. but GOD KNOWS ALL.

me (December 15, 2012) Reply

let me tell u something there he was not driving he was on the passenger side and the driver was the one who ran because they have beat him too so f### off he was a dag good man better person than u upholding this crooked cops

SHIRLEY (December 18, 2012) Reply


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Garrett Bray (May 10, 2013) Reply

hey!!! Jason if you think he should have been beaten a little harder for drinking an riding why dont come beat me since he is dead. Oh never mind im not as old an dissabled as he was yall are all a bunch of punks

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