Memphis Deputies Indicted After Allegedly Beating Mentally Ill Black Man To Death
Nine Memphis jail deputies have been indicted in the death of a Black man who had a psychotic episode and died in custody after deputies punched and kicked him during a confrontation.
NBC News reports Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, who is running for mayor and supervises the jail in which 33-year-old Gershun Freeman was beaten to death, unveiled the indictments at a news conference Wednesday but did not reveal the names of the deputies or the changes they are facing.
Lawyers for Freeman’s family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, adding the charges are serious. However, they said the indictments are sealed.
Video of the incident shows Freeman’s beating by at least 10 Memphis corrections officers, striking him with handcuffs, rings of jail keys, and pepper spray canisters.
The incident occurred on Oct. 5, 2022, when two officers served meals to inmates. When Freeman’s cell opened, he ran out naked toward the officers, who wrestled him to the ground and began to punch, kick, and use pepper spray before being joined by other officers. The video then shifts to a group of escalators that Freeman runs up in another hallway, where officers attempt to restrain him again. Officers can be seen stepping and kneeling on Freeman’s back before sitting him up, where his body appears limp as his head falls between his knees. He remained in that position until medical personnel arrived, and the video ended.
Freeman, who had psychosis and cardiovascular disease, died of a heart attack while being restrained, Bonner said in March. Freeman was booked on Oct. 1 for attacking and kidnapping his girlfriend.
The West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center listed Freeman’s death as a homicide, and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate Freeman’s death.
In Wednesday’s press conference, Bonner said he supports the Memphis deputies, claiming the video’s release is politically motivated because Mulroy, who has recused himself from the investigation, supports a different candidate for mayor.
“Let me be clear. No action — no action — by any Shelby County Sheriff’s Office employee caused Mr. Freeman’s death,” Bonner said.
The City of Memphis is still reeling from the death of Tyre Nichols in January when he was punched, kicked, hit with a baton, and pepper sprayed by Memphis police officers during an arrest. Five officers now face a litany of charges in that incident.