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Loved ones and community activists hold a vigil Monday to honor a man who died in police custody

Police say there is video documenting the moment Robert Bailey became unresponsive in the back of the transportation wagon.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville police identified a man who died in their custody on Thursday. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Robert Nathanial Bailey was taken into custody during a traffic stop. 

At about 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, a Knoxville Police Department officer pulled Bailey over in the Linden Avenue and Cherry Street area They said he had outstanding warrants, so they say they took him into custody without incident and started taking him to the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility in a KPD transportation wagon. 

Police say while in the transportation wagon at the detention facility, police said he became unresponsive. They said the reason behind his death is being investigated. After they said they gave him medical attention on the scene, he was taken to the UT Medical Center via AMR, where he was pronounced dead. 

Friends and family gathered to honor his memory with a vigil and balloon release Monday where family, friends and community activists said they need answers.

"We now have another Black male while in police custody in a police encounter once again turn up dead," Community activist Constance Every said. 

Dozens gathered to mourn the loss of 41-year-old Bailey near Cherry Street and Linden Avenue, where he was pulled over by police for an out taillight.

He leaves behind three children: two teen sons and one 20-year-old daughter.

Loved ones and community activists said they're suspicious and want more details about the moments leading up to Bailey's death.

"The question I definitely have is if he went into any medical distress, did he say, 'Hey, can I get some help back here?'" Every said. 

Every said police have not given the community enough information about his death, leaving people in the dark about how a person died.

"Without any real clarifications or any real information. Especially to his family," she said, "His family is in total darkness."

District 15 Representative Sam McKenzie said he wants to bridge the gap between community and police. 

"I'm tired. I'm tired of vigils. I am tired of seeing children without their fathers. I am tired of seeing situations that I think could be avoidable," he said, and that he's happy the TBI is stepping in to investigate the case. 

Bailey's body has been sent to the crime lab for an autopsy to determine the cause of death. 

WBIR 10 News has requested both the body camera and wagon transport video from the incident. It does exist, we will release it as soon as it becomes available. 

The TBI has taken over the investigation.

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