Special prosecutor asks for TBI's help to investigate deputy's slap

Johnson City Press • Updated Sep 21, 2019 at 4:47 PM

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will conduct a criminal investigation of a Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy who struck a handcuffed man in November.

District Attorney General Dave Clark (7th Judicial District) requested the TBI conduct a criminal investigation after being appointed as the special prosecutor to oversee the investigation and, if necessary, prosecute WCSO Lt. Eddie Graybeal, who was shown on a video released to local media hitting the man in the face.

Graybeal is Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal’s son.

The appointment and subsequent TBI probe comes after 1st Judicial District Attorney Ken Baldwin sent a request to the Tennessee District Attorney General’s Conference to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the incident.

On Monday, a local television station was provided a copy of the video, which was then reported on by the Press. During a press conference Monday, Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen said that Lt. Graybeal striking the man was “definitely against our policy,” but since they were “certain that this incident would never happen again,” the incident was not sent to an outside investigator at the time.

The Johnson City Press filed an open records request for the body camera footage of the encounter, but Laitinen said the Sheriff’s Office no longer has a copy of the video, as body cam footage is deleted after 60 days due to storage space issues. She also said previous attempts to recover the footage were unsuccessful.

On Thursday, Laitinen, in a statement to the Press, said the Sheriff’s Office would “fully cooperate” with the investigation.

“The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has the utmost respect for (1st Judicial District Attorney) General (Ken) Baldwin and we will fully cooperate with the special prosecutor assigned to review this matter,” Laitinen said.

In a press release announcing the request of a special prosecutor, Baldwin said, “it is my job as Chief Law Enforcement Officer and District Attorney to insure to the citizens of the First Judicial District that this matter have the same prosecutorial review as would occur regardless of whether a police officer is involved.”

“This will insure that the matter is handled by a prosecutor who has no personal stake in the investigation, potential charges and any resolution of those charges,” Baldwin said.