Memphis Deputies Charged with Murder in Death of Psychotic Inmate

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Charges of second-degree murder have been laid against two Memphis jail deputies following the death of a black man who was undergoing a psychotic episode and died in custody last fall. According to the court documents made public on a recent Thursday, the jailers have been accused of punching, kicking and kneeling on the man’s back during the confrontation.

The indictments indicate that Stevon Jones and Courtney Parham have also been implicated in committing aggravated assault, in collaboration with others, which resulted in the death of 33-year-old Gershun Freeman. Moreover, there’s an additional count of assault directed at Jones.

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In addition to the aforementioned, seven more deputies are facing charges of fatal aggravated assault. This group includes Jeffrey Gibson, Anthony Howell, Damian Cooper, Ebonee Davis, Lareko Donwel Elliot, and Chelsey Duckett. The identity of one officer remains undisclosed, with the name being redacted in the documents.

The indictments were handed down by the grand jury on a Tuesday and arrest warrants were subsequently issued the following day. As per the current protocol, all deputies implicated have been put on administrative leave. Whether these eight deputies have legal representation is currently unknown as online resources have not provided this information.

A court hearing involving the deputies has been scheduled for October 27th. Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner confirmed the existence of the indictments on Wednesday and was clear that he would not share further details. Instead, he contested that the investigation was politically charged and pledged to aid in raising funds for the deputies’ legal fees.

Despite being a mayoral candidate himself, Sheriff Bonner has not been endorsed by the Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who had extended his support to candidate Van Turner even before Freeman’s death and Bonner’s announcement of his candidacy. Mulroy has since withdrawn from Freeman’s case, and Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk has accepted responsibility for managing the investigation.

Earlier this year, Funk released a video of Freeman during his time at the Shelby County Jail, where he was seen being assaulted by multiple correctional officers after he emerged naked from his cell. The video illustrates the officers wrestling Freeman to the ground, then punching, kicking, and pepper-spraying him. Subsequently, Freeman was seen being restrained face-down, with officers stepping and kneeling on his back until he remained motionless. One officer stayed on his back for several minutes before he was lifted, appearing limp at this point, with his head slumped forward between his knees and his hands shackled behind his back.

Freeman is said to have suffered from psychosis and cardiovascular disease and according to Sheriff Bonner’s March statement, died of a heart attack while he was being restrained, citing a medical examiner’s report. Despite the autopsy report from the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center declaring Freeman’s manner of death as a homicide, the document also clarifies that this observation is not a definitive implication of criminal intent.

Brice Timmons, representing Freeman’s family in a legal capacity, has alleged that Bonner should be held accountable for Freeman’s death.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.