A Tennessee cop has been indicted on 44 criminal charges related to his work and treatment of suspects, including allegations of rape and that he performed a “forced baptism” on one woman.
Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Daniel Wilkey was indicted this week in incidents that the office said were “pertaining to incidents he was involved in while on duty in an official capacity,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. The 26-year-old was facing a series of lawsuits related to traffic stops. That led to criminal investigations amid claims he conducted illegal roadside cavity searches and had groped female minors.
Wilkey had been on paid administrative leave since July, when Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston released dash cam video showing him and another officer beating and stripping the pants from a handcuffed black man before performing a body cavity search. The NAACP spoke out against the incident, saying that the body search was an act of aggravated rape.
As the Tennessean reported, the police officer had been facing a lawsuit from a woman who claimed that rather than taking her to jail, he forced her to be baptized in a lake in February. The suit claimed that Wilkey had followed the woman to a friend’s house from a gas station and pulled her over. Wilkey claimed that the woman was in possession of meth, and he then performed a search that included groping her and ordering the woman to remove her bra, the lawsuit said.
Wilkey found a marijuana cigarette in the car and told the woman she was a “piece of sh*t” and asked if she believed in Jesus Christ, the suit stated. Wilkey then allegedly told her that she could avoid going to jail if she agreed to be baptized and ordered her to strip down to her underwear. She refused to take off her clothes, but Wilkey reportedly dunked her in the lake, according to the lawsuit.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond released a statement following Wilkey’s arrest, saying that his department would be fully cooperating with the district attorney. He also tried to reassure the community that the department remained committed to serving in a “deliberate, honorable, and professional manner.”
As the Chattanooga Times Free Press noted, Wilkey was already surrounded by controversy when he joined the sheriff’s office in February 2018. He had previously been employed by the Rhea County Sheriff’s Office, which had reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit regarding a fatal shooting involving Wilkey.
Wilkey was booked into the Hamilton County jail this week and later released on $25,000 bond.