3 former Mississippi police officers indicted for murder, manslaughter in death of Black man in custody
Three former Jackson police officers were indicted this week on charges of murder and manslaughter, including that of Keith Murrell, a 41-year-old black man who was repeatedly shocked with a stun gun during a New Year’s Eve arrest. A Mississippi grand jury indicted two former officers on murder charges and a third on manslaughter charges.
Authorities in the state capital, Jackson, released body camera footage on Wednesday showing then-officers Avery Willis, Kenya McCarty and James Land struggling to handcuff Keith Murrell as he apparently ran for 10 minutes. Was stunned several times.
Officers arrested Murrell shortly before midnight on Dec. 31, 2022, at a hotel for alleged eviction, authorities said.
McCarty and Willis have been charged with second-degree murder, and manslaughter, court records show. All three were placed on administrative leave following the incident. McCarty was fired in February and Willis and Land in April. Willis and Land were fired for violating the policy, along with CBS affiliate Cazinova Reed WJTV Reported
Merrill’s family filed a lawsuit against the four former police officers earlier this year, alleging that they used excessive force and failed to provide medical aid during the arrest. He died. The case was turned over to the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office in late April, according to WJTV, citing the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.
According to WJTV, Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said this week that both Land and McCarty have been released from custody on $75,000 and $150,000 bonds, respectively. Jones reportedly told the news station on Wednesday that Wills had not yet been arrested and his bond had not been set.
According to city spokeswoman Melissa Faith Payne, McCarty and Willis are black and Land is white. Payne said she did not know as of Wednesday that any of the officers had attorneys who could comment for them.
The video shows McCarty kneeling on Merrill’s back with his knee before Merrill turns around, and the three officers try to tie her hands behind her back. The 41-year-old man is seen pleading with officers to stop shocking him with stun guns.
After handcuffing Murrell, the officers placed the man horizontally in the back seat of the patrol car, 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’s) sleeping. Because if he’s sleeping it’s going to be a good ride,” Willis said, using racial slurs to refer to Merrill. “It was funny to see (his) feet in the air.”
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at a news conference Wednesday that the city is releasing the body camera footage now that the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the death is complete. The officers — all former members of the Jackson Police Department, or JPD — were indicted on May 12.
“We believe we have seen actions that are excessive, desperate and sad,” Lumumba said. “And we believe that is not representative of the vision of public safety that not only this administration wants to project, but we believe the men and women of the JPD want to project.”
The city released the footage less than a week after former Jackson Chief James Davis announced his retirement. After Merrill’s death, Davis initially said the man had a “medical emergency.” Lumumba said Davies’ departure had nothing to do with the incident.
Acting Police Chief Joseph Wade pledged transparency while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Wednesday’s appearance.
“I would ask the citizens of Jackson to continue to support the dedicated, hard-working men and women of the Jackson Police Department who put their lives on the line every single day,” he said. “We will continue to take accountability measures, not just from the bottom up but from the top down as we move forward.”