Story at a glance:

  • William Jennette was killed under correctional officers’ custody while under the influence.
  • Jennette was in jail for less than two days.
  • His daughter is suing the police department responsible for ignoring his pleas to breathe.

A white man in jail died similarly to George Floyd – by the police restraining his breathing.

On May 6 of last year, seven officers pinned William Jennette, 48, facedown, legs and arms tied, to the ground at a Tennessee jail, pressing their knees on his back. It was fatal.


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The medical examiner said he had died from asphyxiation and the interaction of drugs, including methamphetamine. His death was ruled a homicide, The Washington Post reported.

The story was originally broke by WTVF, a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to Nashville, Tennessee, which said Jennette refused to get in a restraint chair, causing law enforcers to get aggressive with him.

“Help, they’re going to kill me,” Jennette said as it was captured on a correctional officer’s bodycam. One of the officers yelled back, “You shouldn’t be able to breathe, you stupid [b-word].”

The father of five died minutes later.

Jennette’s daughter Dominique Jennette is suing in federal court, saying the officers failed to save her father's life when he said he could not breathe while in custody and made things worse, as evident in the video. A grand jury had previously declined to charge any of the officers in the incident.

She also alleges that some of the officers were laughing at him as he was struggling.

“That’s just something that really sticks with me, of how scared he must have been and how alone he must have felt,” Dominique told WTVF.

The officers on bodycam seemed to have ignored Jennette's pleas. He asked the correctional officers if he could stand up and he was cursed out and forced back down to the ground.

“Let me up or I’m gonna die,” Jennette said. “Stay down, you stupid son of a [b-word].”

In all seven officers piled on him and folded him limp, and Jennette is seen gasping for air. This somehow angered one of the officers who said that he was a “little stupid [b-word], and that he was, “gonna break your … foot in a minute.”

At this time, the Lewisburg Police Department is not commenting on the situation, and the attorney representing the seven officers is not either.

Jennette was in jail just for two days before his passing, getting locked up on May 4, 2020, for public intoxication and indecent exposure.

The reason why he was placed in a restainting chair was because he kept “hallucinating” while he was supposed to be “detoxing” from drugs. He was reportedly hitting his head against a wall.

Being placed in a prone position by the police while on drugs draws similarities to Floyd who died under Derek Chauvin and three other Minneapolis officers’ custody on May 25.

One of the officers pinning Jennette down said, “Easy, easy, remember asphyxiation, guys.”

However, one of the correctional officers replied back, saying “That’s why I’m not on his lungs.”

When Jennette blacked out, the officers performed CPR and called for an ambulance. He died at a nearby hospital.


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Published on May 21, 2021