The Knoxville Police Department has completed its internal investigation into the in-custody death Lisa Edwards, who became unresponsive in a police cruiser while being transported to the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on February 5, 2023. Edwards died at the hospital on February 6.
The investigation conducted by the KPD Internal Affairs Unit identified numerous violations of the departmental policy. As a result of those findings and the facts uncovered in the course of the investigation, the following disciplinary action was taken.
Sergeant Brandon Wardlaw, who was the first officer who arrived on scene, was demoted back to his previous Police Officer rank. Officer Timothy Distastio, who was transporting Lisa Edwards to the Roger D. Wilson Facility when she was found unresponsive, was suspended without pay for 10 days. Officer Adam Barnett was suspended without pay for 4 days. Transportation Officer Danny Dugan was not found in violation of any departmental policies and has since returned to his previous assignment.
“When making my disciplinary decision, I considered two significant outside factors that bookended this situation,” Chief of Police Paul Noel said. “The first was that our response and subsequent actions followed a larger systemic failure. Ms. Edwards was at minimum failed by the hospital system and hospital security before we even arrived. We did not help that situation by the way our officers chose to treat Ms. Edwards. The second factor is the Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, which said in no uncertain terms that the actions of law enforcement did not contribute to Ms. Edwards’ death. That determination had to factor into my decision.”
The internal investigative case file can be found here.
“I remain embarrassed and disturbed by what I saw in the video of our interaction with Ms. Edwards, and we as a department should collectively be embarrassed,” Chief Noel said. “The way we spoke to and treated Ms. Edwards was completely unacceptable, and exposed that we have a problem as an organization with how we talk to people. This situation also represented a failure of supervision. Supervisors are held to a higher standard and are there to ensure that the employees under their command are making decisions in the best interest of those we serve and the department.”
“I extend my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family of Lisa Edwards. She deserved better from us,” Chief Noel said.