This story was updated at 1:14 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2020, with more information.
A federal lawsuit brought against then-Bradley County, Tennessee, Sheriff Eric Watson, the county government, a correctional health care company and another department officer by the family of a man who died in custody has been dismissed, according to a Wednesday statement by Watson.
The suit was filed April 19, 2019, in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, records show, in the April 19, 2018, death of 46-year-old Brandon D. Gash, who was an inmate at the Bradley County Jail at the time of his death.
Watson said in the statement that two consolidated lawsuits filed against him, Bradley County, Quality Correctional Health Care and Gabe Thomas, a Bradley County officer, were dismissed. Federal records show orders were handed down Feb. 13 and 21 by U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan on motions by the plaintiffs to dismiss.
"This is another example how thousands of dollars were wasted on a bogus lawsuit that contain lies, false accusations, and political motivation against me and my administration while serving in office," Watson said in his statement. "As Sheriff, I was elected to represent and serve the people of Bradley County in an unbiased and unprejudiced fashion, and I [performed] those duties as faithful as possible. Unfortunately, during my tenure, many false accusations were made against me and my administration, most of which were motivated with political intentions and personal gain. This dismissal by the court system further vindicates my service."
In the now-dismissed suit, Gash's family accused officials of neglecting Gash's medical care, violating the Eighth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, according to newspaper archives.
The 46-year-old man, who had been arrested and booked around 2:30 a.m. with two other friends for methamphetamine possession, couldn't communicate with jailers, couldn't walk, was sweating profusely, couldn't put his hands on a wall to be strip searched and had high blood pressure, according to archives. At one point, after deputies put Gash in a shower, they found him standing in the same place they'd left him, talking to himself, with no water running.
Suspecting that he'd consumed some of the meth, officials placed Gash in a medical room for regular observation. They tried to give him milk to upset his stomach to get him to regurgitate anything swallowed, but Gash wouldn't take it, and ultimately, about six hours later, he became unresponsive and died shortly after officials took him to Tennova Healthcare, archives show.