A Black inmate at a Georgia jail accused a corrections officer of choking him with a leg restraint and making a racist comment while three other officers watched, according to a lawsuit.

Tremar Harris filed a federal civil lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against three corrections officers with the Appling County Sheriff’s Office.

The suit says that the officers “had a duty to intervene” and stop the Jan. 29, 2022, assault but instead, they stood and watched as former corrections officer William Rentz “pulled the chain against the Plaintiff’s throat and strangled” him for about four seconds.

William Rentz.
William Rentz.Courtesy Attorney Harry M. Daniels

Rentz, who is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit but is listed in an earlier one filed by Harris, was subsequently arrested and charged with aggravated assault, battery and violation of oath of office. The more recent suit says he was terminated by the sheriff’s office.

The Appling County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Harris was a pre-trial detainee at the Appling County Jail and was in solitary confinement, according to the suit. While at the jail, Harris was placed in a restraint chair and put in a padded cell.

The suit says that Harris was able to free his right arm from the restraint on the chair, and the three defendants entered the cell to secure him with handcuffs.

“Subsequently, while standing above and behind the Plaintiff who was seated and secured in the restraint chair, Officer Rentz used the chain of an unused leg restraint and placed it across the Plaintiff’s throat,” the suit says.

While Rentz choked Harris, the officer said “he was gonna put you (Plaintiff) back in the cotton field with the other boys inferring that the Plaintiff was a slave,” the suit says. Rentz is white.

A photo included in the lawsuit shows the officer appearing to choke Harris with the leg restraint while the three defendants watch.

Tremar Harris is choked by a guard while restrained
Tremar Harris is choked by a guard while restrained at the Appling County Jail in Georgia on Jan. 29, 2022.U.S. District Court

The suit says that Harris was not posing a threat and feared he might die during the alleged assault.

“Plaintiff was in a state of terror and extreme fear at the time and after Officer Rentz took the chain of the leg restraint and strangled him,” it says.

The three officers could not be reached at phone numbers listed for them. It’s not clear if they have obtained attorneys.

In January, Harris had filed a separate federal civil lawsuit against Rentz. The former officer said Harris was placed in solitary confinement because he was acting erratically, court documents stated. Rentz said in the documents that he believes his actions “were appropriate and necessary.”

An attorney for Rentz said he had no comment beyond the lawsuit.

Harris is seeking damages against Rentz and the three officers. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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