Officers tell restrained man he ‘shouldn’t be able to breathe’ before death

William Jennette's family is suing Marshall County Jail, Lewisburg and the officers after he died last May in custody.

The family of a Tennessee man is suing the officers at Marshall County Jail, the county, and the city of Lewisburg after he died last May at the hands of corrections officers. 

William Jennette was “hallucinating” and “detoxing” from meth when he was arrested for resisting arrest, public intoxication and indecent exposure. 

Video footage from Marshall County Jail in Tennessee reveals a man restrained while in custody was told “you shouldn’t be able to breathe” before he died. (NewsChannel 5 Nashville)

An exclusive investigation by local media outlet NewsChannel 5 uncovered a video of the incident on May 6, 2020, in which William Jennette refused to get into a restraint chair. In the footage, Jennette tells officers he can’t breathe. 

“You shouldn’t be able to breathe, you stupid bastard,” a female officer is heard saying. 

Officers kept their knees on his back, while one spoke up, urging caution. “Easy, easy — remember asphyxiation, guys,” that officer is heard saying. 

“That’s why I’m not on his lungs, to let him breathe,” another responded.

Reportedly, Jennette’s last words were “I’m good.” 

An officer with his knee in his back replied, “No, you ain’t good. You’re going to lay right there for a f**king minute.” 

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The 48-year-old man’s daughter, Dominique Jennette, has filed a suit alleging the “beating, suffocation and resultant death” of her father. She told NewsChannel 5 the circumstances of her dad’s death break her heart because “he was someone worth knowing.” 

“That’s just something that really sticks with me, how scared he must have been and how alone he must have felt,” she said. 

Jennette’s death was deemed a homicide caused by “acute combined drug intoxication” and “asphyxia.” 

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A grand jury declined to bring charges against any of the officers involved. 

Jennette’s other daughter, Calli Jennette, said that while their father — a cement truck driver with five children — had been arrested before, he did not have a long history of arrest before he fell victim to addiction.

“All he wanted was help and all he got was hate,” she said. “It’s not right.” 

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