published Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Parents of Washington County inmate who died sue for $21 million

JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. — The parents of a Washington County inmate who died in custody are suing the county, the sheriff and six jailers for $21 million.

The Johnson City Press reports Joe and Natasha Peppers claim Stewart Peppers was beaten by jailers on April 29 after he began shouting obscenities.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville claims guards struck Peppers in the face while he was strapped in a restraint chair and used a stun gun and chemical spray on Peppers during the course of a 20-minute beating.

After the beating, the suit says guards placed Peppers on the floor and attempted to perform CPR before calling a nurse and emergency medical technicians.

The suit says there is a video of the beating.

A sheriff’s office spokesman has said that Peppers was found unconscious and died while being taken by ambulance from the jail in Jonesborough to the Johnson City Medical Center.

Washington County’s attorney was out of the office and unavailable for comment on Tuesday morning.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an email on Tuesday that the agency is investigating Pepper’s death at the request of 1st Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark. The agent is awaiting the final autopsy report from the medical examiner’s officer.

Pepper’s parents are demanding a jury trial.

Peppers was the second of four Washington County inmates to die this year.

He was charged being held on charges of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, felony vandalism and two drug counts.

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