9 deputies indicted in the death of Gershun Freeman after he was beaten in Memphis jail

CNN  — 

Nine corrections deputies in Shelby County, Tennessee, have been indicted in connection to the in-custody death of Gershun Freeman last year, including two deputies who are facing murder charges.

Those two deputies, Stevon Jones and Courtney Parham, have been indicted by a grand jury on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault resulting in death for their alleged involvement in Freeman’s death while incarcerated at Shelby County Jail in October 2022.

Seven other deputies were indicted on lesser charges related to Freeman’s death.

Freeman’s family has been calling for justice and accountability for months after surveillance footage revealed a violent encounter between Freeman, 33, and several deputies on October 5, 2022, which ultimately resulted in his death.

The footage, made public in March, shows several officers punching, kicking and using what appears to be pepper spray on Freeman as as they attempt to subdue him after he lunged at officers from inside his cell.

Medical examiners found Freeman’s cause of death to be exacerbation of “cardiovascular disease due to physical altercation and subdual” and that “probable psychotic disorder” was likely a contributing condition. The family’s attorney has said Freeman was under mental health observation while at the jail.

Jones and Parham did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. CNN has been unable to determine attorneys for the nine deputies.

Brice Timmons, an attorney for Freeman’s family, said at a news conference the family is “extremely pleased that the grand jury has returned indictments. They feel like the system might actually get some justice.”

Freeman had been booked into jail a week before his death on charges of domestic violence related to aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault.

In a fiery news conference Wednesday night, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. addressed the indictments and said “the way this case was being handled is political.”

Bonner is running for mayor of Memphis. Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy has endorsed one of Bonner’s mayoral race opponents and has recused himself from the case of Freeman’s death.

Mulroy said in a statement that his endorsement of Bonner’s opponent, Van Turner, came before Freeman’s death and before Bonner announced his candidacy.

“I stand with these officers,” Bonner said Wednesday. “I find this (prosecution) despicable.”

A sign demanding justice for Gershun Freeman is held up at a family news conference in March.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represents the family, said the indictments come “after a long fight for justice in his name and reflects the fight for justice for so many who die in custody.”

The case is being prosecuted by District Attorney General Glenn Funk, whose jurisdiction includes Nashville, after Mulroy’s recusal. Funk was appointed to the case by the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference.

A spokesperson for Funk has not returned inquiries from CNN about the case.

Edited surveillance camera footage from inside the jail, which was released by Funk, has fueled calls for justice for Freeman and his family.

In the video, corrections officers are seen opening Freeman’s cell as they are handing food to inmates. Freeman, who is naked, lunges at officers after the door opens.

Multiple officers try to restrain Freeman and are seen punching, kicking and using what appears to be pepper spray on Freeman.

In this video still, a group of guards attempts to subdue Gershun Freeman outside his cell.

Freeman’s body appears to leave a trail of fluid on the floor as he moves into a different hallway. Twice, Freeman is seen on the floor clinging to a guard’s leg before getting up and running away.

After officers chase Freeman to another floor of the jail and try to subdue him, he appears to swing at an officer. Officers eventually restrain Freeman, in part by placing a knee on his back, and put handcuffs on him as he is on his stomach.

Minutes later, when officers try to lift Freeman, he appears limp and unresponsive.

According to Timmons, the family attorney, Freeman was naked in his cell because he had been under mental health observation and was placed in a suicide watch cell.

“I don’t know what is happening in America where law enforcement feels they can treat mental health issues like criminal issues. Especially if they are marginalized people of color. Especially if they are Black men,” Crump said in March.

Freeman’s mother, Kimberly Freeman, has demanded justice for herself, her son and his daughter.

“We have to see my son – her father – in a box. We didn’t plan this. My son had a lot of dreams, a lot of admiration, he cared for people in general,” she said in March. “We want answers.”

CNN’s Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.


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