A relative of a Johnson City man who died while custody at the Washington County Detention Center this week wants answers about his death.
Alan Sieckman, grandfather of Stewart W. Peppers, 22, 606 Swadley Road, No. 46, said there are things he’s heard about his grandson’s death that don’t make sense. Sieckman, from California, contacted the Johnson City Press Friday to speak about his grandson’s death and to press for answers.
He has received no official information regarding his grandson’s death other than through media reports, though he has heard information about Peppers’ treatment at the jail.
“And what I’m seeing don’t jive,” he said. “There’s no reason for my grandson to be dead.”
Sieckman said he is determined to get answers to how and why his grandson died.
“I’ve already contacted both senators and, you know, I’ll contact whoever I can,” he said. “I’m going to get answers one way or another.”
Peppers, who died Monday, was the first of two inmates to die at the Detention Center this week. He was found unconscious around 5:30 or 6 p.m. and later died while being transported to Johnson City Medical Center by ambulance.
The most recent death was Charles Frederick Young III, 35, 631 Saylor Hill Road, Limestone. He died Thursday morning, also after being taken to Johnson City Medical Center from the jail by ambulance, according to Sheriff Ed Graybeal.
Because the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is handling the death investigations — which is standard procedure for the sheriff’s office — Graybeal has declined to comment on what happened to either inmate.
“It’ll just have to float until everything’s done. I’m not gonna talk about something when another agency comes in to help me with it,” Graybeal said.
“What everybody says is their own opinion. They don’t have any more clues than anybody else. I can’t , I’m not going to step out of that... I never have after 34 years. I asked the TBI to come in and investigate it and I’m not gonna go around them. I’m sorry.”
A TBI spokesperson said the deaths are unrelated.
“We are currently investigating what led up to the deaths. I can confirm they are completely unrelated and have different circumstances surrounding their deaths. We are also waiting on complete autopsy reports to determine cause of death for both men,” said TBI Public Information Officer Kristin Helm.
On Thursday, another sheriff’s office spokesman, Major Russell Jamerson, said there is a protocol officers follow when they find an inmate with a medical problem.
“The officer who discovers an inmate that has a medical issue calls for other officers to come and assist,” Jamerson said. “We have nurses on duty 24 hours a day. (They) will contact our medical department and the nurses respond depending on the situation and we have medical equipment on site here, including AEDs (automated external defibrillators) and other medical equipment. Based on the situation, we contact 911 and EMS responds and then if the person requires transport to the hospital then they are transported by EMS.”
Jamerson said the inmate deaths were tragic situations and bringing in an outside agency like the TBI is WCSO policy.
“We have an outside agency come in and investigate it because we don’t want there to be any appearance of any bias or anything like that,” Jamerson said. “We have policies in place and in this instance our policies were followed and we take our commitment to the care and custody of inmates ... very seriously.”