Assault and Death at Nashville’s Tin Roof Leaves Lots of Questions

In the early hours of Sunday, February 18th, 25-year-old Austin Michael Turner from Hendersonville, TN was leaving Nashville’s Tin Roof bar and music venue on Demonbreun Street. The Tin Roof is part of a gaggle of businesses that sit between Lower Broadway and Music Row in midtown.

Turner had been hanging out with two friends at the Tin Roof, celebrating an $1,800 win they had on the sports betting app Draft Kings. Just after midnight, his friends ordered an Uber to take them home, and Austin ordered a separate Uber for himself. His friends offered to wait on Austin’s Uber to show up first, but he told them he would be fine.

While waiting on the sidewalk outside of the Tin Roof for his Uber, Austin decided he needed to go back inside the establishment. We don’t know exactly why Austin wanted to re-enter the bar, perhaps to use the restroom, or maybe he forgot something inside, but the licensed security guard for the Tin Roof, 36-year-old Richard Cornelius, denied him re-entry. This is when a physical altercation ensued.

Austin Turner

What happened next is not entirely clear. But according to Metro Nashville police, Richard Cornelius swung multiple times at Turner, finally hitting him and knocking him unconscious. Austin Turner ended up at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center with a fractured skull and cerebral trauma and swelling. An emergency craniotomy was performed, but it was not enough. Turner still suffered massive strokes in the right hemisphere of his brain and fell into a coma.

After an investigation by detectives at the Midtown Hills Precinct of the Metro Nashville Police, an arrest warrant was issued for Tin Roof security guard Richard Cornelius on March 5th. He turned himself into police, and was released on a $25,000 bond. At the time, Austin Turner was still in a coma at the Vanderbilt Hospital with no sign of improvement. The family celebrated Austin’s 26th birthday on March 2nd at the hospital.

Richard Cornelius

On March 7th, after 16 days of being in the hospital with no signs of recovery, Austin Turner’s family made the difficult decision to remove him from life support. According to Metro Nashville Police, Midtown Precinct detectives are discussing with the District Attorney’s Office if further or enhanced charges should be brought against Richard Cornelius after Austin Turner’s passing.

Austin Turner’s mother released the following statement after his death:

On Sunday, February 18, 2024, a security guard employed with or acting as the agent of Tin Roof used senseless and excessive force upon my son, Austin Michael Turner, by delivering blows to his head until my son lost consciousness. My son suffered a fractured skull and cerebral trauma and swelling. Despite Austin’s valiant struggle for survival, his injuries proved to be fatal. Because of the reprehensible actions of a security guard, my son spent the final 16 days of his life, including his twenty-sixth and final birthday, in an irreversible coma. No mother ever expects to outlive and bury her children, and as a mother, the depth and breadth of my grief are beyond measure. While I cannot restore my son’s life, I vow to pursue justice in the name of my son with all my heart, soul, and strength.

Many questions remain about the assault of Austin Turner leading to his death. What led to the altercation? Why was Turner trying to get back into the Tin Roof, and why was he denied?

Some video surveillance from the incident was made available to investigators, but has not been made available to the public due to the ongoing investigation. The family thinks more video footage could be out there, including potentially from other witnesses that have yet to come forward. They’re asking for anyone who may have more information to come forward to aid in the investigation.

Tin Roof let the security guard go after the incident. Tin Roof CEO Bob Franklin said in a statement, “We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation, but we are fully cooperating to aid law enforcement in their efforts and will continue to do so. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Austin Turner.”

A Go Fund Me has been set up to help with the media costs and final expenses for Austin Turner.

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