MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Nine indictments have been obtained against Shelby County corrections deputies in connection with the death of Gershun Freeman, who died while in jail custody on Oct. 5, 2022.
Sheriff Floyd Bonner confirmed the information in an announcement Wednesday. The Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk’s office confirmed the following jailers have turned themselves in:
- Chelsey Duckett
- Stevon Jones
- Jeffrey Gibson
- Lareko Elliot
- Damien Cooper
- Ebonee Davis
- Courtney Parham
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Duckett, Gibson, Elliot, Cooper, and Davis are charged with aggravated assault resulting in death of another. Parham and Jones are charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault act in concert.
Bonner, who is running for the office of Memphis mayor, complained that the case had become political, saying District Attorney Steve Mulroy improperly released video footage showing Freeman’s death earlier this year.
“I want this community to know that I stand with these officers. I believe that if I were not running for another office these indictments never would have happened and I find this despicable,” Bonner said.
Part of the video showed Freeman naked and lunging out of the cell when the cell door opens. One jailer appeared to respond with pepper spray while another jailer appeared to drop a meal tray and start punching Freeman.
After Freeman’s death, Mulroy called in an independent prosecutor to investigate the case. The case was taken over by Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk’s office, but Bonner said Funk should be released from the case.
Watch the full press conference in the player below:
Freeman, 33, was being held on charges of kidnapping and threatening his ex-girlfriend when he died in police custody.
A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide in an autopsy report, saying he was restrained by jailers and subsequently went into cardiac arrest. The report also stated Freeman died due to cardiovascular disease exacerbated by the fight and restraint.
Freeman was said to have had a history of psychosis, and had a stab wound and several drugs in his system at the time of death, the report stated.
Mulroy released a statement Wednesday evening in response to Bonner’s press conference. He said he requested another DA be appointed to Freeman’s case to keep politics out of it and Funk’s release of the video was not an irregular practice.
You can read the full statement below:
“I endorsed Van Turner for Mayor before Mr. Freeman died in the Shelby County Jail and before Sheriff Bonner declared his candidacy. To keep politics out of the case, I recused myself and requested another DA be appointed, a common practice among DAs which is not at all unusual. The DA Conference, not me, appointed Glenn Funk. I’ve had no involvement at all in the case since last year, and played no role in the decision to indict.
The release of the video was per the regular practice of DA Funk and not at all unusual. I haven’t stated I disagree with it. Sheriff Bonner was legally able to release any and all of the videos in all jail death and officer-involved shooting cases. I favor such release in the name of transparency.
In recent jail death cases since the Freeman case, Sheriff Bonner initially refused to provide TBI or this office with videos, stating that we could view the video at his office but could not have a copy and that we had to go through his lawyer Allan Wade. This is not practical; we need a copy of the video to examine ourselves. As a result, I had to get the TBI to compel production of the videos.
I can’t comment on the details of the Freeman case, both because it is an ongoing case and because I am not involved in it since it is DA Funk’s case and not ours. “
Van Turner also addressed Bonner’s comments, saying, “Shame on the Sheriff for his lack of accountability. Unfortunately this is what we have come to expect from someone who fails to provide leadership and oversight and is only focused on his next position and not the current one he was elected to do. He shows his lack of ability to lead at 201 Poplar. If you can’t lead 201 how can you lead 901.”