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Suit filed in Washington County inmate death

Rex Barber • Jul 9, 2013 at 10:37 AM

A $20 million-plus lawsuit has been filed against Washington County, the county sheriff and six jail officers by the parents of a man who they say died after a beating while he was an inmate at the jail.

Joe and Natasha Peppers filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville claiming their son Stewart Peppers, who had been arrested on April 26, was beaten by six jail employees on April 29 after he began shouting obscenities.

After the initial beating, according to the suit, one of the jail guards began striking Peppers in the face with his fists while he was strapped in a restraint chair.

It was also alleged in the suit that Peppers was sprayed with chemicals and Tasers were used on him during the course of this second 20 -minute beating.

After the second beating, Peppers was placed on the floor and the guards reportedly attempted to perform CPR on him. A nurse and then emergency medical technicians were called.

It was reported in April that Peppers later died while being transported to Johnson City Medical Center by ambulance.

A video of the incident is available and may have been seized by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which was looking into Peppers’ death, according to the lawsuit.

Peppers’ parents allege Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal violated their son’s constitutional rights by acquiescing to the “cruel and unusual treatment” of him.

Washington County is liable in that “the policies and/or customs of Washington County, Tennessee was the moving force behind the violation of” Peppers rights.

Peppers’ parents believe their son died as a result of the beatings, and they are suing for the wrongful death of their son and seek damages including medical expenses, reasonable funeral expenses, emotional shock, fright and distress of Peppers, the value of his life and loss of consortium.

Peppers’ parents are seeking $20 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 each for loss of their son.

They are also seeking punitive damages against all the defendants.

A jury trial is also demanded.

Peppers’ body was sent for autopsy, but the results were not available.

Peppers was charged with aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, felony vandalism, simple possession of a schedule VI drug for resale and simple possession of a schedule III drug.

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

And Jay William Davis, 39, 151 Ridgecrest Road, Jonesborough died at the jail in January.

Charles Frederick Young III, 35, 631 Saylor Hill Road, Limestone, died in the jail back in May.

Aaron Michael Bever, 29, 2280 Palmwood Drive, Dunedin, Fla., was found hanging in his cell June 17. He was pronounced dead later that night at JCMC.

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