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Wadie Suttles, 66
Chattanooga, Tennessee
December 02, 1983

Agencies: Chattanooga Police Department - Tennessee

Cause of death: beating

Last updated: about 3 years ago

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Death from severe head trauma to brain stem, police beat him with “slap jacks”. Left unconscious in cell, denied medical treatment, died in hospital; Arbitrary Detention, Torture, Extra Judicial Killing.

 Suttles was arrested on November 25, 1983 for “disorderly conduct” after he was found sleeping in his car.  After a verbal altercation with the arresting officer, Isaac Cooper, he was pushed and struck several times, and dragged off to jail.  He was beaten several times in the jail by racist jailers, a number of times with a “slapstick” and a flashlight. (One of the jailers later bragged to a white inmate that, “that old man had a hard head…he bent my slapstick”).  He was forcibly grabbed and removed from his cell and taken to a hospital, and then thrown into an isolation cell.  

Later, Suttles was beaten again in the isolation cell and killed. Cops and the city government attempted to cover-up the crime by lying about the cause of death, withholding and destroying evidence, and falsifying reports. 

Officials gave 4 scenarios for his death:  Heart attack:  ramming his head into the bars; diving or falling from his bunk; and finally that an inmate killed him, but they cannot tell how, why, or who.  Died December 2,1983—pronounced dead December 6, 1983.  This case has been taken to the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Rights and was talked about about the World Conference Against Racism in South Africa in September 2001, as an example of the kinds of human rights violations that occur in this country on a consistent basis without just resolution. The case created an outrage in the black community, leading to numerous protest rallies and demonstrations.  The family filed a $3 million civil rights lawsuit, but the case was rigged and the city prevailed.

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