OBION COUNTY,TN — A grand jury Tuesday declined to indict anyone regarding the investigation into the death of Sterling Higgins. The west Tennessee man died about an hour after being detained by the Obion County, Tennessee, jail in March.
An autopsy found Higgins died of what's called excited delirium due to an overdose. Doctors say that's when a person becomes agitated or violent and can become distressed, causing death.
Bobby Gordon was a family friend of Higgins for years. He helped organized a community protest demanding an investigation into Higgins' death.
Gordon said he knew Higgins suffered from drug abuse. Despite that, Gordon said, "He was a man of God — one who loved his kids."
Gordon and fellow community activist Josh Freeman were visibly upset when we showed them video of Obion County District Attorney Tommy Thomas defending his decision.
"My standard that I was looking at is to determine whether or not any of the officers were involved in conduct that rose to the extent of criminal behavior — did they do anything criminally to cause his death?" Thomas said.
The grand jury said no, and Thomas agreed with that decision.
Freeman said he believes that's because they didn't view all the evidence. "We were hopeful that they would have the opportunity to view the same footage we did, but knowing that they didn't, it smells like a cover up to us," he said.
WPSD is working to obtain the video that shows Higgins' death at the Obion County Law Enforcement Complex. The video was shown to Freeman and other family members by Thomas a few weeks ago. Thomas said an investigator with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation explained the video to the grand jury instead.
"We will never know if they called the ambulance service sooner perhaps he may have lived. We will never know. We just won't know that," Thomas said.
An autopsy report from the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center noted multiple blunt force trauma injuries on Higgins' neck, chest arms and legs.
Thomas said the cause of death is what matters in this case. The death was ruled an accident after the circumstances surrounding and leading up to it were reviewed.
Everyone I spoke with said the death of a man in their community is tragic.
The Obion County Sheriff's Department did not return our calls for comment on this story or Tuesday's decision by the grand jury.