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Obion County, Union City & Police Officers Sued In Sterling Higgins Death

Obion County Sheriff's Department

A woman is suing Obion County, the city of Union, Tennessee, police and jail officers for events that occurred during Sterling Higgins’ pretrial detention in Obion County Jail, which lawyers say led to his death. 

Jennifer Louise Jenkins is the mother of one of Higgins’ children and the administrator ad litem of his estate. The complaint was filed early this month in the U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tennessee and alleged defendants failed to transport Higgins to a medical or mental health facility when they knew he was suffering from a mental health crisis. The suit also cited excessive use of force and failure to provide or summon adequate medical care. Attorneys for the plaintiff released surveillance footage from Obion County Jail showing officers grasping Higgins’ neck and restraining him.

In the complaint, attorneys said Higgins grabbed the hair of a jail officer after being shoved and was brought to the ground. Officers gripped his neck and applied shackles on his legs and ankles. The complaint also claims an officer stood on Higgins while he was down and other officers did not intervene to prevent the continued use of “excessive” and “collective force.” The officer standing on Higgins stopped when Higgens went limp. Attorneys said the officer with his hands on Higgins neck continued for another two minutes. Officers then strapped Higgins to a mobile restraint chair. 

The complaint says white foam was coming from Higgins’ mouth or nose, indicating a medical emergency. Officers placed Higgins in a cell. EMS personnel later arrived at the jail and immediately began emergency medical treatment, including CPR. Higgins was pronounced dead at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

In October, an Obion County grand jury declined to indict the jail and police department officers involved in the incident. District Attorney Tommy Thomas presented the case to the grand jury and determined there should not be any criminal charges.

Thomas said Higgins had a large amount of methamphetamine in his system and the pathologist report indicated Higgins went into “excited delirium,” contributing to his behavior and death.


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