A Tennessee family in still looking for answers regarding the death of 22-year-old Stewart Peppers.
Peppers, a champion body builder, died on April 29, 2013 after he was arrested and held for three days in the Washington County jail.
Family members, who run the “Justice for Stewart Peppers” Facebook page told Police State Daily that the incident involved an “extreme abuse of power.”
“My grandson was murdered in [the] Washington Co. Detention Center… no foul play… just six men, a restraint chair, some chemical spray, tasers, and 20 minutes of torture while a young man [fought] for his life,” one grandparent said.
Peppers was initially 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 when he was booked with a $62,000 bond.
Officials say Peppers was being housed alone, in a single cell, when he became aggressive and started shouting obscenities at jail personnel.
Parents say Peppers endured an initial beating when officers entered his cell. They say officers then strapped him to a restraint chair where they beat him again even though he couldn’t move.
Corrections officers and Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal say allegations that Peppers was beaten to death are false. In an answer to a complaint however, which was filed in US District Court, the defendants did admit to using a taser and chemical spray.
A Washington County grand jury decided there was no need for any additional investigation into the incident after an autopsy report declared Peppers’ death “accidental” – the result of a condition called “Excited Delirium,” which they say most likely stemmed from “Nandrolone Decanoate, exogenous testosterone, and acute cannabinoid use.”
As a result, Washington County District Attorney General Tony Clark closed the case.
Excited Delirium Syndrome is a controversial medial diagnosis sometimes associated with the use of physical control measures like police restraint, that can result in death via cardiac or respiratory failure.
Symptoms include a combination of delirium, psychomotor agitation, anxiety, hallucinations, speech disturbances, disorientation, violent and bizarre behavior, insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature, and increased strength.
Family members filed a federal lawsuit in July of 2014 seeking $21 million in damages on “civil rights violations” and “wrongful death grounds” against Washington County, Sheriff Graybeal, and six County jail corrections officers.
The Peppers’ family attorney says he has eye witness testimony that Peppers was beaten to death in the holding cell.
Family told Police State Daily they are demanding a “proper and thorough investigation into the wrongful death” of their loved one. Please visit change.org and SIGN THE PETITION to help make this happen!
UPDATE: Family members sent Police State Daily pictures from Peppers’ funeral showing injuries consistent with physical assault: