Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Three former Jackson police officers in Mississippi were indicted this week on murder and manslaughter charges in connection with the death of Keith Murriel, a 41-year-old Black man who was pinned down and repeatedly shocked with stun guns during a New Year’s Eve arrest. A grand jury indicted two of the ex-officers on murder charges and the third on a manslaughter charge.

Officials in the state capital of Jackson released body camera footage Wednesday that showed then-officers Avery Willis, Kenya McCarty and James Land struggling to handcuff Keith Murriel as he was apparently stunned numerous times over 10 minutes.

The officers had tackled Murriel while arresting him for allegedly trespassing at a hotel shortly before midnight on December 31, 2022, authorities said.

McCarty and Willis have been charged with second-degree murder, and Land with manslaughter, court records showed. All three were placed on administrative leave after the incident. McCarty was fired in February, and Willis and Land in April. Willis and Land were fired for a policy violation, along with Cazinova Reed.

Murriel’s family filed a lawsuit earlier this year against all four former police officers, alleging they used excessive force and failed to render medical aid during the arrest that led to his death. That case was turned over to the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office at the end of April, citing the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said this week that Land and McCarty have both been released from custody, on a $75,000 bond and a $150,000 bond, respectively. Jones reportedly told the news station on Wednesday that Wills had not yet been arrested, nor had his bond been set.

McCarty and Willis are Black, and Land is white, according to Melissa Faith Payne, a city spokesperson. Payne said she did not know whether any of the officers had attorneys as of Wednesday who could comment for them.

The video shows McCarty kneeling with her knee on Murriel’s back before Murriel flips around, and the three officers attempt to lock his hands behind his back. The 41-year-old man is seen pleading with officers to stop shocking him with stun guns.

After handcuffing Murriel, officers then laid the man horizontally on the back seat of a patrol vehicle, the video showed. He died after being taken into custody.

Willis’ body camera footage showed him talking to another officer after the encounter.

“I hope (he) is asleep. Because if he’s asleep, it’ll be a good ride,” Willis said, using a racial slur to refer to Murriel. “It was funny seeing (his) feet in the air.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at Wednesday’s news conference that the city was now releasing body camera footage because a Mississippi Bureau of Investigation probe of the death had been completed. The officers — all ex-members of the Jackson Police Department, or JPD — were indicted on May 12.

“We believe we have seen actions that are excessive, disheartening and tragic,” Lumumba said. “And we believe that is not representative of the vision of public safety that not only this administration wants to put forward, but we believe the men and women of JPD want to put forward.”

The city released the footage less than one 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 not related to the incident.

Acting Police Chief Joseph Wade pledged transparency in speaking with reporters at 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 have accountability measures in place, not only from the bottom up but from the top down as we move forward.”

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com

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