Tennessee cops mocked dying man’s plea: ‘I can’t breathe’

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A US jail inmate died gasping for breath minutes after police officers held him face down, with one taunting: “You shouldn’t be able to breathe.”

New footage from the Tennessee facility shows how William Jennette, 48, was pinned down and tied a year ago.

“Help me,” he pleaded with other staff at Marshall County Jail in Lewisburg, “they’re going to kill me.”

Asphyxia was listed as “a contributory cause of death” due to officers’ use of the prone restraint.

Mr Jennette’s official post-mortem examination was ruled a homicide, with “acute combined drug intoxication” also listed by the medical examiner as a cause of death.

The prone restraint was most recently under scrutiny in the police murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last year, 19 days after the death of Mr Jennette.

The daughter of Mr Jennette, who was white, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over law enforcement practices in the father-of-five’s death on 6 May 2020.

In their lawsuit, which names seven officers as defendants, the Jennette family alleges excessive force was used at the jailhouse, located 70 miles (110km) south of Nashville.

“All he wanted was help and all he got was hate,” his daughter Cali Jennette told local CBS affiliate WTVF-TV.

Mr Jennette was pinned down with an officer’s weight on his back for a total of four minutes, according to the lawsuit.

Officials have defended their handling of the incident, saying Mr Jennette was “extremely unruly”.

Agencies

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