3 Mississippi police officers indicted in death of Black man who died in custody

The city of Jackson released hours of unedited bodycam footage Wednesday to coincide with a news conference, showing the cops repeatedly deploying at least one stun gun on Keith Murriel. 

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Three police officers from Jackson, Mississippi, have found themselves on the wrong side of the law after being charged in the New Year’s Eve death of a man in custody.

A grand jury indicted former police officers Avery Willis and Kenya McCarty on a second-degree murder charge in relation to the death of Keith Murriel on Dec. 31. According to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, a third former officer, James Land, is facing a manslaughter charge.

The incident occurred at an Extended Stay hotel on Beasley Road on Jackson’s north side. At least one of the officers accused of murder is Black, as was Murriel.

Keith Murriel -- Jackson, Mississippi police
Keith Murriel (above) died in police custody on Dec. 31. On Wednesday, three Jackson, Mississippi, police officers were indicted in his death. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/16 WAPT News Jackson)

The city released hours of unedited body camera footage on Wednesday to coincide with a news conference, showing the cops repeatedly deploying at least one stun gun on 41-year-old Murriel. 

In the first five minutes of one of the recordings, Murriel is reportedly shown being stunned 13 times.

The video shows officers acting in a way that Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba called “excessive, disheartening and tragic.”

“We are on the side of justice,” Lumumba said, the Clarion-Ledger reported, “and want to see justice take place.”

Lumumba said Murriel’s family saw the videos before their release to the media.

Former Jackson Police Chief James E. Davis previously issued a statement contending that Murriel’s death resulted from a medical emergency — a comment Lumumba publicly disagreed with a month later. Davis announced his retirement on Friday.

The three officers initially were placed on administrative leave. McCarty was fired in February and the other two were fired last month for a policy violation, according to WJTV, which said it was unclear if the firings were directly related to Murriel’s death.

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said it would be incorrect to interpret his office’s prosecution of the three as a condemnation of the Jackson Police Department. “We do not think the actions of a few represent the bravery of so many,” he said.

Lumumba expressed his sympathies to the Murriel family and said it was crucial to him and the police department leadership to make the video public without interfering with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s ongoing investigation.

Although he and Davis had a “different take” on the video, the mayor insisted during the news conference that Davis’ choice to retire was unrelated.

Joseph Wade, the interim police chief, was the Jackson Police Department’s assistant chief until Davis announced his retirement last week. He sent condolences and prayers to Murriel’s family and said he was committed to maintaining accountability and transparency.

“We strive at the Jackson Police Department to create community trust,” Wade said, according to the Clarion-Ledger. “When we fail, we create community distrust.” He asked Jackson residents to continue supporting the city’s hard-working, devoted officers, “who put their lives on the line every single day.”

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