Gay Couple Claims They Were Unfairly Targeted By Graves Co. Sheriff’s Dept.

Nov 25, 2017
Originally published on November 22, 2017 4:55 pm

A gay couple in Graves County says they were unfairly targeted and harassed in their home by members of the local sheriff’s department. Body camera videos uploaded to YouTube show the officers forcibly arresting Billy Hamilton and Patric Rodriguez.

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The video footage shows multiple Graves County officers at the couple’s home around midnight on February 22. In the description of his YouTube video (embedded in the story below), Hamilton said police asked for his husband Rodriguez  earlier in the day, but he was out of the house. He said police wouldn’t say why they were looking for Rodriguez, despite multiple calls to the non-emergency line seeking an answer.

Rodriguez said he woke up later that night to find police at his door.

 “I thought ‘oh hey, they’re here for something in the neighborhood and can I help out?’ I came out with the intention to help them-assist them, with whatever they were there for," Rodriguez said. "I had no idea why they were there to do what happened next.”

This time, they want Hamilton … but again won’t say why. And things go downhill, Rodriguez says, when police try to enter their home.

In the video, a police officer who Hamilton and Rodriguez identify as Chief Deputy Davant Ramage, begins yelling and banging on the couple's door.

“You tell me you ain’t gonna open it?" The officer said. (Rodriguez: "I will make it open") "HEY, HEY! Dipshit’s going up the stairs…" The officer said. (Rodriguez: Please tell him not to hit the door) "Open this door!"

Rodriguez had accidentally locked himself out of the house and Hamilton is filming the incident from a second floor window. In a follow-up interview, Rodriguez said he and his husband have spent most of their lives in Southern California and became accustomed to locking the door behind them when they leave.

In the video the police show no warrant for Hamilton’s arrest and seem to offer no explanation for why they are there. The officer who Hamilton and Rodriguez identify as Chief Deputy Ramage begins to use obscene language, while other officers can be seen laughing.

“I will tell you right now you shit apple redneck, if you raise your voice to me one more time I will throw your ass right off this porch and drag you to jail, now you need to understand that.” The officer said.

The police retrieve a sledgehammer from their car to break down the door. Officers discuss how to enter the home and threaten to shoot the couple’s dog, who Rodriguez warns might attack them. Hamilton  eventually unlocked the door and the officers arrest him. Rodriguez said the officers then taser his husband, which isn’t seen in the video.

“There was nothing I could do, but it was terrifying to me, because there was nothing I could do- there were too many of them, I wouldn’t fight back with a cop anyways no matter what. It was traumatizing, it really was.” Rodriguez said.

The police later said Hamilton was arrested for “harassing communications” because he called the Sheriff's Department too many times earlier that day inquiring about why they were looking for Rodriguez. Hamilton was also arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Rodriguez was arrested for alcohol intoxication and disorderly conduct. Rodriguez said he had a couple drinks and took some Melatonin before going to bed that night. In Kentucky, an AI charge has to be attributed to a public disturbance. Rodriguez says he didn't cause a disturbance before police arrived.

The next morning, both men were released from jail. Hamilton said only looking through the arrest report did they learn the police were initially looking for Rodriguez for an outstanding fine in another county. He said Rodriguez went back that same day and cleared up the matter.

The couple said they felt targeted by police the night of their arrests. In the video, they refer to both men as a “doo-dah.” Rodriguez said they’re new to Kentucky, but hadn’t felt discriminated against until this incident.

"We’re out. We’re like average guys, we go out to the local bar, we go out to Winchester all the time. We’re accepted there- we can hold hands, we can kiss... we usually just go play pool." Rodriguez said. "Everyone in town knows who we are, knows that we are together.”

The Kentucky Fairness Campaign advocates for LGBTQ people. Chair Chris Hartman said it’s hard to see in the footage if the officers are discriminating, but said he’s not surprised to hear about police issues.

“Marginalized people in virtually every community experience disproportionate rates of policing.” Hartman said.

Rodriguez said he and his husband are working to dismiss the charges, but it’s hard to get back their ‘peace of mind.’

“Until this happened I felt extremely comfortable, now we’re very paranoid," Rodriguez said. "When we’re in the living room we look at every car passing by, it’s just instinctive- ‘is that a cop? Is that a cop? Are they here again?’ It’s changed our comfort level quite a bit.”

The Graves County Sheriff’s Department and Graves County Attorney did not return multiple requests for comment. Hamilton has a hearing on December 18 for a motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause and unreasonable seizure. If the case is not dismissed, both Rodriguez and Hamilton will go to court in January.

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