Lincoln County jailers will not be charged for inmate’s death

LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. - Lincoln County jail guards will not be charged following a seven-month-long investigation into the death of inmate William Hawk.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation presented evidence to a grand jury on Tuesday. District Attorney General Brent Cooper tells WHNT News 19 the potential charges presented by the TBI to the grand jury were reckless homicide and criminally negligent homicide. However, the grand jury did not find probable cause the jail guards committed a crime related to the inmate's death.

A Tennessee autopsy report ruled Hawk's death a homicide due to traumatic asphyxiation. The report says the 50-year-old inmate was transferred from the jail to Vanderbilt Medical Center on September 15, 2018, suffering from traumatic brain injury.

Hawk’s death followed an altercation with several jail staff members, according to the autopsy report. He suffered head trauma, facial injuries and a broken nose. It says he was placed in a prone, or facedown, position while restrained and became unresponsive.

Hawk was on TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list in July for an incident that occurred in the Park City area. Authorities located him at a Walmart in Nashville later that month. He was taken into custody and charged with attempted criminal homicide.

Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder tells WHNT News 19 he is not surprised by the findings of the grand jury. Sheriff Blackwelder says he always had faith that his jailers followed the proper procedures and did their jobs correctly.

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