Lawsuit alleges Georgia jail guard choked restrained man while colleagues watched

Screengrab from the released video in the Appling County Jail.

Three Appling County Jail guards watched as their colleague appeared to choke a restrained inmate. In a new lawsuit, attorneys claim the guard also used racially charged language during the attack.

Video of the incident that happened back in January 2022 has been made public.

The video appeared to show a small room where 37-year-old Tremar Harris was being restrained in a chair by his wrists, ankles and torso. In the beginning of the video, Harris wiggled one arm free.

Moments later, two guards came in and noticed what had happened. They appeared to call for backup and returned to the room with two additional jail guards. One of the guards was identified as 60-year-old William Rentz.

The video appeared to show Wentz and at least one other guard using handcuffs, or some sort of other material, to restrain Harris again.

The guard helping Wentz stepped back as he finished, then Harris appeared to say something over his shoulder. That's when Wentz, now behind Harris, grabbed what Harris' attorneys said was a chain, wrapped it around Harris' neck and pulled back. He leaned over Wentz appearing to say something. 

Attorneys said Wentz told Harris, who is Black, that he was "gonna put you back in the cotton field with the other boys." Please note the video provided to FOX 5 Atlanta did not have sound to independently corroborate this claim.

Harris could be seen on the surveillance camera saying something before Wentz removes the item from his neck and exits the room.

The fellow guards were identified as Officer Daydan, Brannon, Cannon Mcleod and Ansley Fennell.

"These three officers had a legal and a moral duty to protect Tremar Harris. But they did nothing," said Harris' civil rights attorney, Harry Daniels. "Instead of doing their jobs stopping this unlawful, hateful and sadistic act, they chose to stand and watch as their fellow officer tortured a fellow human being."

The incident was investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in February 2022.

Rentz was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, violation of oath of office and battery. Those charges were later dropped by the local district attorney's office, prompting Harris' lawyers to pursue a lawsuit on April 16, 2024.

"Officers aren’t allowed to watch a violent crime happen even if the criminal is wearing a badge," said Attorney Daniel.

Among other things, Harris' lawyers requested a trial by jury and compensatory and punitive damages.