(JACKSON, Miss.) — Three former Jackson Police Department officers were indicted by a grand jury last week on homicide charges in the death of Keith Murriel, a Mississippi man who died in police custody on Dec. 31, 2022.
Hinds County District Attorney Jody E. Owens, II, announced the charges against former officers Kenya McCarty, Avery Willis and James Land in a press conference on Wednesday.
“All three officers have been indicted for homicide,” Owens said. “The District Attorney’s office would like to acknowledge the brave actions of the entire Jackson Police Department. And we do not think the actions of a few represent the bravery of so many.”
Owens said that McCarty and Willis were each charged with second-degree murder, while Land was charged with manslaughter.
“Ms. McCarty sincerely laments Mr. Murriel’s death and has the most sincere condolence for his family and friends,” McCarty’s attorney Francis Springer told ABC News in a statement on Thursday. “Ms. McCarty doesn’t believe she is guilty of the crime for which she is indicted or of any other crime. She will enter a not-guilty plea.”
Springer told ABC News that an arraignment date has not been set yet.
ABC News has reached out to an attorney for Land but requests for comment were not immediately responded to. Efforts to reach Willis directly for comment were unsuccessful. It is unclear if Willis has retained an attorney.
Daryl Washington, an attorney representing the family of Murriel, told ABC News in a statement on Thursday that the indictment brings “a level of comfort” to the family.
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“It’s been an extremely difficult time for the family, knowing that Keith’s death was totally preventable,” Washington said.
“Although the family would much rather have Keith here with them, there is a level of comfort knowing that the officers have been indicted for the egregious crime they committed last December,” he added. “We know that this is only the first step in a long process, but we are encouraged by the thorough investigation that was conducted and believe the officers will be held fully accountable for their wrongful actions.”
The city of Jackson released body camera footage of the incident on Wednesday that was reviewed by ABC News and shows officers tasing Murriel several times as they try to handcuff him. Murriel can be heard repeatedly urging the officers to stop.
“The hardest thing for the family is hearing Keith telling the officers to stop,” Washington told ABC News on Thursday.
Following Murriel’s death, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation launched a probe into the incident.
ABC News has reached out to the MBI for a copy of the final report, as well as a copy of Murriel’s autopsy.
Jackson City Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who urged the MBI to release the video earlier this year, told reporters that the video is “voluminous” and is made up of footage from various officers’ cameras, as well as camera footage from the surrounding area that captured Murriel’s encounter with police.
“We believe that we have seen actions which are excessive, disheartening and tragic,” Lumumba said.
Members of Murriel’s family, who, according to Washington, have been calling for months on the MBI to release the body camera video, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April against officers involved in this case.
“We chose not to release the video at that time because we did not want to compromise the ongoing investigation,” Lumumba said.
“We wanted to make it clear while we were releasing this video that we are on the side of justice and want to see justice take place,” he added.
Newly appointed Jackson Police Department Chief Joseph Wade offered his condolences to Murriel’s family during the press conference on Wednesday and pledged to be transparent.
“We strive at the Jackson Police Department to create community trust. When we fail, we create community distrust,” Wade said, urging the community to continue to support the officers who “put their lives on the line every day.”
“We at JPD 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,” he added.
Former Jackson Police Chief James Davis announced his retirement on Friday and Wade was named interim police chief.
Lumumba publicly disagreed with Davis in February after police released a statement saying that Murriel experienced a “health emergency” that led to his death.
According to a Jackson Police Department news release given to the ABC affiliate, WAPT, in January officers responded at about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 31 2022, to a call for service in the 500 block of E. Beasley Road.
“While at the location, officers successfully took an individual into custody who experienced a medical emergency,” JPD said in the release, according to the affiliate. “American Medical Response was summoned to the location to render aid; unfortunately, the individual was pronounced deceased on the scene.”
Asked during the press conference on Wednesday if Davis’ departure had anything to do with the backlash over the incident that led to Murriel’s death, Lumumda said, “no.”
“I shared that, you know I had a different take on it, but that had nothing to do with his decision to retire and my decision to accept his retirement,” he added.
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