3 former Mississippi cops indicted for death of man in police custody
JACKSON, Mississippi — A Mississippi grand jury has indicted two former police officers with murder and another ex-officer with manslaughter in the death of a black man seen on video being pinned down and repeatedly shocked with stun guns during the vigil New Year’s Day stop.
Officials in the Jackson state capital released body camera footage on Wednesday showing then-officers Avery Willis, Kenya McCarty and James Land struggling to handcuff Keith Murriel as he was apparently repeatedly knocked unconscious during 10 minutes.
Officers had accosted Murriel during his arrest for alleged hotel trespassing shortly before midnight on December 31, authorities said.
McCarty and Willis were charged with second degree murder and Land with manslaughter, according to court records. All three were placed on administrative leave after the incident. McCarty was fired in February, and Willis and Land in April.
McCarty and Willis are black and Land is white, according to city spokeswoman Melissa Faith Payne. Payne said she wasn’t sure if any of the officers had attorneys on Wednesday who could comment for them.
The video shows McCarty kneeling with her knee on Murriel’s back before Murriel turns around, and the three officers attempt to lock her hands behind her back. The 41-year-old is seen pleading with officers to stop shocking him with stun guns.
After handcuffing Murriel, officers then laid the man horizontally in the back seat of a patrol vehicle, the video showed. He died after being taken into custody.
Body camera footage of Willis showed him talking to another officer after the encounter.
“I hope (he) is sleeping. Because if he is sleeping, it will be a good ride,” Willis said, using a racial slur to refer to Murriel. ‘air.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at Wednesday’s press conference that the city is now releasing body camera footage because a Mississippi Bureau of Investigation investigation into the death has been completed. The officers – all former members of the Jackson Police Department, or JPD – were charged May 12.
“We believe we have seen excessive, disheartening and tragic actions,” Lumumba said. “And we think that’s not representative of the vision of public safety that not only this administration wants to put forward, but we think the men and women of JPD want to put forward.”
The city released the footage less than a week after former Jackson chief James Davis announced his retirement. After Murriel’s death, Davis initially said the man had a “medical emergency”. Lumumba said Davis’ departure was unrelated to the incident.
Acting Police Chief Joseph Wade pledged to be transparent when speaking with reporters during Wednesday’s appearance.
“I would ask the citizens of Jackson to continue to support the dedicated and hardworking men and women of the Jackson Police Department who put their lives on the line every day,” he said. “We will continue to put accountability measures in place, not just from the bottom up, but from the top down as we move forward.”