A Mississippi man who was out exercising his horses on Wednesday evening never returned home to his two children, one of whom is only one year old, after an encounter with officer Kevin Harrington of the Stonewall Police Department.

Jonathan Sanders, 39, was out with his horses and a carriage between 10:30 and 11 p.m. when he was approached by the officer.

Stewart Parrish, a lawyer who was representing Sanders in another case prior to his death, asserts that the officer pulled Sanders from his horse and strangled him to death as the man cried out, “let me go, I can’t breathe.”

Charita Kennedy, Sanders’ girlfriend and mother of their one-year-old child, witnessed the encounter and asserts that Sanders was not breaking any laws when the officer approached him.  She also states that Sanders was strangled with a flashlight, a detail that the Stonewall Police deny.

“But there’s no lighting on a horse carriage, and at 10.30 at night that’s … well I can’t discuss that further,” Stonewall Police Chief Michael Street told the Guardian, without officially commenting on why Sanders was stopped.

Sanders’ family maintains that the horse carriage he was driving did have lights, however.

“He was asking ‘Why do you stop me? What are you hassling me for?’,” Parrish told The Guardian. “He pulled him off the buggy, and they went to the ground, and it went from there.”

When asked if Sanders acted aggressively toward the officer, Police Chief Street declined to comment.

“At this point we’re not sure,” he said. “It would be premature for me to make any assumption on what Mr Sanders did or did not do.”

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is now handling the case and the autopsy results are still pending, Parrish maintains that he was in fact strangled to death, whether by flashlight or other means.

“Officers typically have Tasers, they have pepper spray – there are lots of different non-lethal ways to subdue somebody,” Parrish stated. “And one way, of course, is to walk away and come back with more officers.”

In the meantime, Officer Kevin Harrington has been placed on paid leave.