HARDEMAN COUNTY, Tenn. — A close friend of wrestler Brian Lawler thinks police had something to do with his death, and says he has text messages to back up his claim.
Lawler died in the Hardeman County jail three weeks ago in what authorities have determined was a suicide. His family has said they don't believe that.
"I think they were strangling him," said Terry Teague, Lawler's best friend. "I think they had him down in his holding cell and they were strangling him and he was fighting for his life."
Teague says he says he's not buying the suicide story because Lawler saved him from suicide twice.
"He talked me out of it," Teague said. "Again, he told me listen, look at life from outside of the box."
Following the suicide attempt, Teague shared text messages between June and July showing Lawler talking about starting a suicide awareness and prevention organization. He also goes on to say he loves himself too much to take his own life.
"He told me straight up, he said, 'Man if I ever died, don't let them say it's a suicide,' he said, 'because here is the thing, even if nobody else in this world loves me, I love myself enough not to take my own life.'"
The two were literally partners in crime. Before Lawler's final arrest, police arrested them, saying they didn't pay for a hotel they stayed in.
Teague says what looks like a smiling mugshot has much more meaning.
"We got to jail and I heard the jailers tell him, 'Lawler, law enforcement is going to kill you yet.' Brian was just smiling."
Teague says lawler believed police were after him. Lawler had his fair share of run-ins with the law, but believed the arrests started to become personal.
That's why Teague says everyone inside the jail should be investigated.
"I believe that them officers — and I pray to God, I hope that that lawyer would make everyone who was working that day to take a polygraph test, because then the truth would come out."
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is still looking into this case. We reached out to them to see if they are also interviewing jailers, but haven't heard back yet.
We also reached out to the jail and haven't gotten a response.