Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

No Corporate Advertising. No Selling Out. We Rely Instead on Many Small Donations From Readers Like You.

Donald Trump is out of the White House. COVID-19 is fading, at least in wealthier nations. The world, they say, is returning to “normal.” That’s the narrative that the corporate media is selling. But there’s a problem: “normal” is destroying our planet, threatening our democracies, concentrating massive wealth in a tiny elite, and leaving billions of people without access to life-saving vaccines amid a deadly pandemic. Here at Common Dreams, we refuse to accept any of this as “normal” or acceptable. Common Dreams just launched our Mid-Year Campaign to make sure we have the funding we need to keep the progressive, independent journalism of Common Dreams alive. Whatever you can afford—no amount is too large or too small—please donate today to support our nonprofit, people-powered journalism and help us meet our goal.

Please select a donation method:

Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies pile on William Jennette, a 48-year-old father of five who died at the Marshall County Jail in Lewisburg, Tennessee on May 6, 2020 after being hogtied, kneeled on, and taunted for several minutes. (Photo: Marshall County Jail)

Officers from multiple law enforcement agencies pile on William Jennette, a 48-year-old father of five who died at the Marshall County Jail in Lewisburg, Tennessee on May 6, 2020 after being hogtied, kneeled on, and taunted for several minutes. (Photo: Marshall County Jail) 

'An Absolute Nightmare': Video Shows Tennessee Officers Taunted Hogtied Man Before He Died

"You shouldn't be able to breathe," one officer replied to William Jennette's plea moments before the man's death at the Marshall County Jail in Lewisburg last May.

Justice advocates on Friday condemned officers at a Tennessee county jail for taunting a hogtied man moments before his death after a local news station published video of the incident.

"There's approximately a three-minute, 43-second period after officers have applied handcuffs where they keep the individual in the prone position, and that's not acceptable."
—Seth Stoughton,
use-of-force expert

William Jennette—a 48-year-old white father of five—died on May 6, 2020 at the Marshall County Jail in Lewisburg, Tennessee after a group of officers from multiple law enforcement agencies restrained him and kneeled on his back for several minutes while he screamed for help, WTVF reports.

Video obtained by the Nashville station shows Jennette—who was arrested for alleged public intoxication, indecent exposure, and resisting arrest—yelling, "Help, they're going to kill me!"

One officer is heard commanding Jennette to "stay down, you stupid son of a bitch."

The video also shows Jennette repeatedly pleading with officers that he could not breathe.

"You shouldn't be able to breathe, you stupid bastard," an officer identified in a lawsuit as Kendra Burton replies.

At least two officers in the video say that Jennette bit them. 

At one point in the video an officer sounds a note of caution, telling his colleagues: "Easy, easy—remember asphyxiation, guys."

To which another officer responds, "That's why I'm not on his lungs."

Jennette's last words were, "I'm good."

"No, you ain't good," an officer replies.

An autopsy (pdf) performed by the Marshall County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Jennette's death a homicide, listing the cause as "acute combined drug intoxication"—he had methamphetamine in his system—with asphyxia as a "contributory cause of death."

Despite that finding, a grand jury decided not to indict any of the officers. 

Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund called the video "an absolute nightmare," tweeting: "Grand jury refuses to indict any. That's how it usually happens."

Chris Vanderveen, director of reporting at KUSA in Denver, tweeted that this is the 121st prone police restraint death he has logged. 

One of Jennette's daughters, Dominque Jennette, filed a lawsuit (pdf) this February against Marshall County, the city of Lewisburg, and several of the officers involved. The suit alleges the officers' "savage beating" and "suffocation" of Jennette caused his death, and constitute a "deprivation of civil rights" under the Fourteenth Amendment. 

"That just breaks my heart because he was someone worth knowing," his daughter told WTVF. "That's just something that really sticks with me, how scared he must have been and how alone he must have felt."

Dominique Jennette said she believes the officers "should have been more aware."

"They should have been trained properly, and they weren't," she added.

Seth Stoughton, a law professor and former police officer, told WTVF that the video shows "the exact opposite of what generally accepted training has taught officers for the last 25 years."

"When the handcuffs came on, they should have rotated the guy to his side," asserted Stoughton. "There's approximately a three-minute, 43-second period after officers have applied handcuffs where they keep the individual in the prone position, and that's not acceptable."

The video's release came one day after the Associated Press published footage it obtained of Louisiana state troopers stunning, punching, kicking, choking, and dragging 49-year-old Ronald Greene, who died during a May 2019 arrest following a high-speed chase.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Support progressive journalism.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Report on ICE Reveals 'Cruelty and Coercion' Against Hunger Strikers

The U.S. agency's systemic response of "coercion and violence," said an ACLU attorney, "speaks to the inherently abusive and inhumane nature of immigration detention."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Leaked IPCC Draft Climate Report 'Reads Like a 4,000-Page Indictment' of Humanity's Failure

"This is a warning of existential risk. Of survival. Of collapse," said Extinction Rebellion.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·


Documents Show Saudi Operatives Who Murdered Khashoggi Received Paramilitary Training in US

"America training death squads will come as a huge shock to anyone who's never heard of the past 245 years of U.S. history."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


'We Are the Workers': Socialist India Walton Declares Victory in Buffalo Mayoral Race

"We do the work," the Democrat said after her primary win. "And we deserve a government that works with and for us."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Sanders Rips GOP for Remaining 'Loyal to the Big Lie,' Says Filibuster Must Be Abolished

"Not a single Republican in the United States Senate has the courage to even debate whether we should protect American democracy or not."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·