MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Two Memphis jail deputies have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Black man who was having a psychotic episode and died in custody last fall after jailers punched, kicked and kneeled on his back during a confrontation, according to court documents released Thursday.
The indictments show that Stevon Jones and Courtney Parham have also been charged with aggravated assault while acting in concert with others in the death of 33-year-old Gershun Freeman. Jones faces an additional count of assault.
Meanwhile, seven other deputies have been charged with aggravated assault resulting in the death of another. Those officers include: Jeffrey Gibson, Anthony Howell, Damian Cooper, Ebonee Davis, Lareko Donwel Elliot and Chelsey Duckett. One officer’s name was redacted.
The grand jury made the indictments Tuesday and warrants were issued Wednesday.
All of the deputies have been placed on administrative leave. Online records do not show if the eight deputies named in the indictment have lawyers.
A hearing for the deputies will take place Oct. 27.
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner first disclosed the existence of the indictments Wednesday evening, but refused to give any more information at the time. Instead, he accused the investigation of being political and vowed to help raise money for the deputies’ legal fees.
Bonner is running for mayor of Memphis. Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy threw his support behind a different candidate, Van Turner, before Freeman’s death and before Bonner announced his candidacy.
Mulroy has recused himself from Freeman’s case and Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk has since been tapped to oversee the investigation.
“I did everything I could to take politics out of it and I hope the public doesn’t buy the narrative that there was anything untoward about that,” Mulroy told reporters Thursday.
Earlier this year, Funk released video of Freeman at the Shelby County Jail.
The video shows Freeman was beaten by at least 10 corrections officers Oct. 5 after he ran naked from his cell.
According to the video, officers wrestle Freeman to the ground and begin to punch, kick and pepper-spray him. They are joined by additional officers. The deputies move with Freeman out of the hallway. From another camera’s view, Freeman is seen wrapping himself around an officer’s legs in a different hallway.
The video shifts to a bank of escalators and Freeman, still naked, runs up one of them. In another hallway, a struggle continues with officers attempting to restrain him before getting him face-down on the ground. They can be seen stepping and kneeling on his back before he becomes still. One officer remained on Freeman’s back for several minutes before he was lifted.
He appears limp when officers do lift him up, with his head falling forward between his knees and his hands cuffed behind his back. He remains in that position until medical employees arrive, and the video ends.
Freeman had “psychosis and cardiovascular disease and died of a heart attack while being restrained,” Bonner said in a March statement, citing a medical examiner’s report.
Freeman’s manner of death is listed as a homicide in the autopsy report from the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center, although the report says that this “is not meant to definitively indicate criminal intent.”
Brice Timmons, a lawyer for Freeman’s family, said Wednesday that Bonner is to blame for Freeman’s death.
Kruesi reported from Nashville, Tennessee.
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