CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) -- A former Missouri sheriff accused in the beating death of a jail inmate used his knee to press on the man's neck and, when repeatedly urged by a police officer to stop, responded, "No, I'm good," according to a wrongful death lawsuit seeking at least $20 million for the inmate's family.
Tory Sanders, 28, of Nashville, Tennessee, died in May 2017, after being subdued by then-Sheriff Cory Hutcheson and others at the Mississippi County Jail in Charleston, Missouri. The federal lawsuit filed Monday said he was taunted, hit with a stun gun, pepper sprayed, beaten, punched and choked while "pleading for help and struggling to stay alive."
The county's presiding commissioner, Carlin Bennett, declined to comment.
Hutcheson was not criminally charged in Sanders' death, but was dismissed soon after. He was at the jail the night Sanders died even though his law enforcement license had been suspended because of criminal allegations in unrelated cases.
The Southeast Missourian reports that the lawsuit filed in Cape Girardeau on behalf of Sanders' nine children and other relatives names Hutcheson and other law enforcement officers, as well as Mississippi County and the town of Charleston. The lawsuit alleges civil rights violations, false imprisonment and wrongful death.
Sanders ran out of gas May 4, 2017, in southern Missouri, then hitchhiked and ended up in Charleston.
A day later, Sanders told police officers there was a warrant out for his arrest in Nashville related to an altercation with the mother of his children. The lawsuit said Sanders also told officers: "I need to see a mental health doctor to save my life and my kids' life."
He was taken to the jail, where a mental health counselor concluded Sanders was suffering from paranoia as a result of substance abuse, and that he should be hospitalized for observation, the suit states.
But he remained at the jail.
The suit says that on the night of May 5, Hutcheson led a team of officers and jailers, wearing helmets and vests and holding a large shield, into Sanders' cell. The lawsuit said Sanders was tackled and punched as the officers tried to place him in handcuffs and leg irons.
The lawsuit alleges that Hutcheson pressed his left knee on top of Sanders' neck. Charleston police officer Curtis Anderson told Hutcheson at least three times to remove the pressure, the lawsuit said.
"No, I'm good," the sheriff responded, according to the lawsuit.
Hutcheson applied pressure to the neck for up to three minutes after Sanders stopped moving, the lawsuit alleges.
"No lifesaving measures were taken" after Sanders stopped breathing, the suit states. Emergency medical personnel arrived and took him to a hospital, where he died a short time later.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's office investigated Sanders' death but decided against charges. Medical experts concluded that Sanders died because of a medical condition known as "excited delirium," and not as a result of the officers' attempts to subdue him.
Sanders was the third person to die in the jail over the past few years, a pattern Hawley has called "troubling."
About a month before Sanders' death, Hutcheson was arrested for allegedly tracking the cellphones of a judge and law enforcement officers. He also was accused of taking his sister-in-law's paycheck from the hair salon where she had worked, and was charged with robbery.
Those cases are still pending.