Nine deputies in Shelby County, Tennessee, will have their day in court after being charged in the death of a man who was having a psychotic episode.
Last fall, Gershun Freeman, 33, died in custody after jailers punched, kicked, and knelt on his back during a confrontation, a sheriff said Wednesday.
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner disclosed the indictments during a news conference earlier last week but declined to offer more details, including the names of the county jail deputies and the charges they faced.
Lawyers for Freeman’s family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bonner.
The video footage of the October 5 incident shows Freeman beaten by at least ten corrections officers. The deputies are accused of striking him with handcuffs, rings of jail keys, and pepper spray canisters after he ran naked from his cell.
According to the indictment, Steven D. Jones and Country J. Parham were charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault while acting in concert with others. Jones is also facing another count of assault.
Meanwhile, the remaining deputies were charged with aggravated assault, resulting in the death of another.
The other officers were Anthony D. Howell, Chelsea B. Duckett, Ebonee N. Davis, Damian S. Cooper Jr., Lareko Donwel Elliot, Jeffrey A. Gibson, and Charles Gatewood.
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.
According to court records, Freeman was jailed on Oct. 1 for attacking and kidnapping his girlfriend.
Bonner is running for mayor of Memphis and confirmed the deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave. He also said he supports them and claims the release of the video and the indictments are politically motivated.
“Let me be clear. No action — no action — by any Shelby County Sheriff’s Office employee caused Mr. Freeman’s death,” Bonner said, adding later that he would be “the first one to donate” to any fundraiser to help with his deputies’ legal fees.