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Tennessee deputy involved in dog bite arrest ordered strip searches on women

Posted at 2:56 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 17:56:55-04

SPARTA, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tosha Henry, 32, said she was pulled over for a minor traffic violation and strip searched in White County, Tennessee, last year.

She said she decided to share her story after seeing an investigation into the deputy that pulled her over.

Deputy Brandon Young resigned from the White County Sheriff's Department in July, after the FBI began investigating an arrest in which he ordered his police dog to repeatedly bite an unarmed woman, who was hiding in a closet.

The woman who was repeatedly bitten in that arrest, Tonya Qualls, was also pulled over by Brandon Young and strip searched last year.

Several attorneys said that officers should get a search warrant before they conduct a strip search on someone pulled over for a traffic violation, and even then the search should be done in private, not on the side of a public road.

Both cases raise questions about the policies followed by the White County Sheriff's Department.

Tosha Henry will never forget what happened to her and the 30 year old female passenger in her car on October 19, last year.

"We were humiliated really, and strip searched on the side of a public road in front of God and everybody," Henry said.

White County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Young pulled over Henry and her female passenger for a "non-functional tag light" according to his incident report.

Young wrote "I had prior knowledge that both suspects have been involved with drug-related activities in the past and consent to search was asked for and was granted."

"Where I'm from, the police, you do what they tell you to do," Henry said.

But she said she had no idea how far the search would go, and was surprised when a female corrections officer suddenly showed up on scene.

"She looked at me and said, 'go ahead and take it off.' I just shook out my shirt and my bra and she said, 'no all the way off,' and I'm looking around. There are five male officers standing around the vehicles," Henry said.

"We had to pull our pants down and squat and cough, while all these male officers are around and cars are going down the road," Henry continued.

Officers found no drugs.

But they wrote her passenger a ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia after finding two syringes.

The two were then allowed to drive away.

"I just bawled. I was like, 'did this really just happen? Nobody's going to believe it. Nobody's going to believe it," Henry said.

Body cam video shows the search of Tosha Henrty was not isolated.

Just nine days earlier, on October 10, 2019, Deputy Brandon Young pulled over a car driven by Tonya Qualls.

Qualls asked in the video, "Why did you pull me over?"

Brandon Young responded, "Because you rolled the stop sign out on Murphy."

Deputy Young then asked Qualls and her male passenger, "Do ya'll care if I just take a quick look and then get ya'll back on your way?"

But it was not quick.

Young again called a female corrections officer to the scene after finding two prescription pills in the car.

"Send me a female officer out here on (Highway) 111," Young said on the body cam.

We showed the video to Tosha Henry who could not believe the same officers strip searched another woman.

"That's the same officer and corrections officer," Henry said looking at the body cam video.

The female corrections officer reported back to Brandon Young that she found no illegal drugs.

"I got her ... naked, made her squat and cough and everything. I couldn't find nothing," the officer said.

"She had two bras on, nothing. I took both of them, the padding the inner lining and everything," the officer added.

They finally let Qualls go with a ticket for having a hypodermic needle and two pills without a prescription.

Attorney Richard Brooks represents Henry and was disturbed when we showed him the video of the strip search of Tonya Qualls.

When asked, "Should they be doing strip searches looking for drugs on the side of the road?" Brooks said,"No, they absolutely shouldn't be doing that. Absolutely not."

"That's just totally out of character with what our Bill of Rights is," Brooks added.

He said officers must get a warrant to do a strip search, and even then it should be done at the jail - not on a public road.

But he said in White County, he has heard they became a common tactic.

"They are routine if you are a nobody, lower socioeconomic, and they feel they can pick on them," Brooks said.

Henry said she had the courage to come forward only after Deputy Brandon Young got in trouble for ordering his dog repeatedly bite a woman in April who as hiding in a closet.

It turns out that woman, Qualls, is the same woman Young had strip searched on the side of the road five months earlier.

The body cam video from the strip search clearly shows Young and Qualls knew each other.

Young asked, "Who's car is this?"

Qualls responded, "This is (redacted) new one. I have it until I get my truck fixed."

Young said, "I got you. Did ya'll finally kiss and make up?

Qualls said, "No."

But when Young found Qualls hiding in the closet he ordered his dog to keep biting, and claimed she might have a weapon.

She's never been violent in the past, and was unarmed this time.

Qualls is now represented by attorneys with Johnson, MacLeod and Gernt.

Young resigned from the White County Sheriff's Department in July after the FBI began investigating the arrest.

Henry knows the problems are bigger than one officer.

She said policy changes inside the entire sheriff's department are needed.

"I am hoping with me coming forward and getting this out it is going to help the next person," Henry said.

White County Sheriff Steve Page did not respond to our requests for comment.

This article was written by Ben Hall for WTVF.