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Sequatchie County Sheriff Went Wild, Couple Says

CHATTANOOGA (CN) - A man claims Sequatchie County sheriff's officers threatened him with death at gunpoint and the sheriff felt up his wife in his presence without cause.

Shawn and Michelle Graham say men dressed in camouflage outfits stopped them as they drove on the highway, "thrust a loaded shotgun" through the window, "sometimes tapping his [the husband's] head with the barrel" and threatened to kill them by "blowing their f---- heads off."

After searching their car and finding "no weapons, no drugs, and no contraband," and with no reason to suspect them of anything, the Grahams say Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock then searched Mrs. Graham "in an extended, intrusive and humiliating fashion. He reached inside the pockets of her clothing, making inappropriate contact with her breasts and groin areas. Handcuffed in the back seat of Sheriff Hitchcock's cruiser, Mr. Graham was forced to watch this unconstitutional spectacle," according to the complaint.

The Grahams say they were handcuffed, jailed and strip searched. Neither was ever charged with a crime, nor even suspected of it on any "credible evidence," the Grahams says.

They claim the sheriff has refused to release any record of their arrest and have kept their names secret referring to them only by the numbers of the jail cells where they were unconstitutionally locked up.

They seek punitive damages for constitutional violations, wrongful arrest and pain and suffering. They are represented in Federal Court by John Wolfe.

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