Mayor publicly contradicts police chief on cause of Black man’s death

Keith Murriel's family has retained civil rights attorney Daryl K. Washington to represent them in their claims that Murriel died after being beaten by Jackson, Miss., police, not from a health emergency.

The mayor of Mississippi’s capital city publicly contradicted statements made by its police chief regarding the cause of a death of a Black man on New Year’s Eve.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba on Monday rejected the claim made by Police Chief James Davis that the death of Keith Murriel, 41, occurred due to a medical emergency while he was being taken into custody. The incident happened at the victim’s residence in North Jackson around 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

“I will say that Chief Davis needs to speak for himself and what he meant by that statement, but based on the knowledge that I have, I must say that I disagree with that statement,” Lumumba said, according to the Clarion Ledger. “Maybe he meant that in a different way … but based on the information available to me, what took place is not clearly communicated.”

Chokwe Lumumba
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba this week publicly contradicted statements from Police Chief James Davis, who claimed that Keith Murriel, a Black man, suffered a medical emergency while being taken into custody on Dec. 31, 2022. (Photo: Hannah Mattix/Clarion Ledger/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Hinds County coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart reportedly said the cause of Murriel’s death is pending, but video taken by a witness purports to show police using a stun gun throughout the confrontation.

Lumumba said he has urged the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the agency leading the investigation, to release officers’ body camera footage of the incident. He said that if MBI didn’t comply, he would contact the city attorney’s office to see if the municipality had the legal right to disclose the footage. 

According to WJTV News, Davis said a complete body cam video documenting officers with Murriel would be made public after an internal investigation by the Jackson Police Department.

Authorities said in a statement on Jan. 3 that officers Avery Willis, James Land and Kenya McCarty are on administrative leave due to the incident.

Murriel’s family has since retained civil rights and personal injury lawyer Daryl K. Washington to represent them in their claims that their loved one died after being physically beaten by the police.

“Based on the information that’s been provided to us, the death of Keith was not only tragic, but it was totally preventable,” Washington said, WJTV reported. “Keith was known to be a very gentle person who was kind to everyone.”

Washington contended that to be transparent and keep the community’s trust, JPD should make officers’ body camera clips and any other surveillance footage available to the public whenever someone passes away in police custody.

“The family deserves to know how and why Keith was killed, which does not take a month,” Washington said, according to WJTV. “We are calling for full transparency, the immediate release of all footage of the incident, and the termination of the officers responsible for Keith’s wrongful death.”

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