3 former Mississippi police officers are charged in man’s death after New Year’s Eve confrontation
By Kevin Conlon, Maxime Tamsett and Alta Spells, CNN
(CNN) — A Mississippi grand jury has indicted three former Jackson police officers in the death of Keith Murriel, a man who died shortly after a confrontation with the officers in a hotel parking lot on New Year’s Eve.
In police body camera footage obtained by CNN, the officers say they were called to the scene by hotel security after Murriel had been repeatedly asked to leave for allegedly harassing people in the parking lot. The footage shows during their interaction with him, the officers tased the 41-year-old man several times as he writhed and screamed in pain.
No emergency personnel could be seen tending to Murriel in either of the roughly one-hour videos shared with CNN by Daryl Washington, an attorney representing Murriel’s estate.
Two of the former officers, Kenya McCarty and Avery Willis, have been charged with second degree murder, according to the indictments filed on May 19. The third, James Land, has been charged with manslaughter.
In addition to the criminal charges, the officers are also being sued by Murriel’s estate. Washington filed a civil lawsuit against the officers alleging Murriel lost consciousness after several rounds of being tased and was then left unattended in the back of a police vehicle for about an hour before emergency medical personnel arrived, the lawsuit states.
“At no time did (the officers) check on Murriel to determine if Murriel was okay, although they had observed that he was unresponsive, unable to walk on his own, and in need of medical attention,” the suit says.
Murriel was taken to a hospital where he died, the suit said. His cause of death, according to the suit, was cardiac arrest. CNN has reached out to the Hinds County Coroner about the cause and manner of Murriel’s death but did not immediately hear back.
McCarty’s attorney, Francis Springer, told CNN his client “sincerely laments Mr. Murriel’s death and has the most sincere condolences for his family and friends,” but that she “doesn’t believe she is guilty of the crime for which she is indicted or of any other crime.”
McCarty – who is out of jail on a $150,000 bond – will enter a not guilty plea, Springer said.
Willis turned himself in Friday morning and is awaiting arraignment, Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones told CNN. CNN has been unable to determine if Willis has legal representation.
Land has been released on a $75,000 bond, according to Jones. CNN reached out to an attorney listed for Land but did not immediately hear back.
Public records requests made by CNN for police reports detailing the incident have not been fulfilled.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba called what he had seen “excessive, disheartening and tragic” at a Wednesday news conference.
“(This) is not representative of the vision of public safety that not only this administration wants to put forward, but that we believe the men and women within the Jackson Police Department want to put forward,” Lumumba said.
Jackson Interim Police Chief Joseph Wade said at the news conference that when his police department fails, “we create community distrust.”
“We at [the Jackson Police Department] will continue to be transparent and we will continue to have accountability measures in place, not only from the bottom up, but from the top down, as we move forward.”
What the police footage shows
McCarty and Willis were the first to respond to the call, the videos show. According to the officers’ conversation in the footage, they escorted Murriel away from the hotel. McCarty could be heard saying that Murriel returned to the hotel before the officers left.
Within moments of his body camera footage beginning, Willis is seen tackling Murriel from behind, knocking him to the ground. McCarty walks up to Murriel and both officers repeatedly tell him to put his hands behind his back.
Twenty seconds after Murriel hits the ground, McCarty tases him for the first time, the footage shows.
Murriel does not appear to readily comply with the officers’ commands in the first minutes of the confrontation, despite the officers’ repeated instructions.
In his civil suit, however, Washington says that Murriel was not resisting and never made any attempts to harm the officers or anyone else. Washington says in the lawsuit that Murriel can be heard “begging the officers to ‘please stop!’”
The officers tase Murriel several more times, including once after he is in the police vehicle, the footage shows.
The civil suit also criticizes the officers’ apparent insensitivity toward Murriel.
“(They) joked about how they treated Murriel and the condition he was in. It was apparent that Murriel was clearly in medical distress and in need of immediate medical assistance, but (they) failed to provide any,” the lawsuit states.
In the body camera footage, Willis is heard saying, “That was funny.”
“In the beginning it was funny,” responded Land, “(but) after a while it got annoying.”