3 ex-officers indicted in death of Black man seen on video being shocked with stun guns
JACKSON, Mississippi. (AP) — A Mississippi grand jury has indicted two former police officers on murder charges and another ex-officer on a manslaughter charge in the death of a Black man seen on video being pinned down and repeatedly shocked with stun guns during a New Year’s eve arrest.
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 Dec. 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.
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.”
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mikergoldberg.