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Press Release

Two Tennessee Law Enforcement Officers Charged with Federal Civil Rights and Obstruction Offenses in Excessive Force Case

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging two Lawrence County, Tennessee, law enforcement officers with federal civil rights and obstruction offenses stemming from their use of unlawful force during the arrest of a 61-year-old man.

According to count one of the indictment, on Oct. 5, 2020, in Giles County, Tennessee, Sherriff’s Investigator Zach Ferguson and Deputy Eric Caperton, aiding and abetting each other, threw the victim, C.J., to the ground, struck him multiple times in the head without a legitimate law enforcement reason and caused his head to strike the pavement. C.J. suffered bodily injury as a result of the actions of Ferguson and Caperton. Counts two and three of the indictment further allege that Ferguson and Caperton each attempted to cover up their misconduct by filing a use of force report that falsely claimed the arrestee was on his knees when the defendants removed him from his van, and that omitted that the defendants, aiding and abetting each other, threw the arrestee to the pavement and struck him multiple times in the head. Counts four and five of the indictment allege that Ferguson and Caperton each obstructed justice by falsely telling criminal investigators that C.J.’s upper body never touched the ground during the arrest and falsely claiming that C.J.’s injuries were caused by punches that Ferguson delivered while the arrestee was still inside his van.

If convicted, Ferguson and Caperton face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the excessive force charge and a maximum of 20 years in prison for the obstruction charges. Both defendants also face up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

The FBI Memphis Field Office investigated the case. 

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Henry C. Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division and Special Agent in Charge Douglas DePodesta of the FBI Memphis Field Office made the announcement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rascoe Dean for the Middle District of Tennessee and Special Litigation Counsel Michael J. Songer of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated July 25, 2023

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 23-803