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Two Memphis sheriff’s deputies have been charged with second-degree murder, and seven others face charges related to the beating death of a jailed man experiencing a mental health episode.
Gershun Freeman, a 33-year-old Black man, died in custody at the Shelby County Jail last fall after nearly a dozen jail workers beat, punched, kicked and kneeled on his back for several minutes. Freeman, who had reportedly been experiencing a psychotic break, died while naked and afraid.
According to the family’s attorney, Memphis deputies had placed Freeman in a suicide watch cell after being placed under mental health observation.
Memphis deputies Stevon Jones and Courtney Parham have been indicted on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault while acting in concert with others. Seven other deputies were charged with aggravated assault resulting in the death of another. Their names are Jeffrey Gibson, Anthony Howell, Damian Cooper, Ebonee Davis, Lareko Donwel Elliot and Chelsey Duckett.
The identity of all Memphis deputies involved wasn’t revealed. A ninth officer’s name was redacted, according to the Associated Press.
Memphis deputies, police face indictments
Notably, the Memphis deputies charged appear to be of African descent. It illustrates how sharing skin color doesn’t automatically prevent police brutality.
The indictments come months after several Memphis police officers were charged in the brutal beating death of 29-year-old skateboarder Tyre Nichols.
The five main officers from the now-disbanded Scorpion Unit were indicted in September.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, all of whom are Black, face a count of excessive force and deliberate indifference and two counts of witness tampering.
Similar to the police officers involved in the killing of Tyre Nichols, the case of the 9 Memphis deputies involved in Freeman’s death shows police brutality extends across ethnic ties.
DOJ investigating Memphis policing
Tyre Nichols was stopped at a red light on Jan. 7 when the officers pulled up beside him, got out of the car and started barking orders at him. Fearing for his life, Nichols tried to comply but was brutalized and ran away.
Once the officers caught up to him, body cam footage shows they took turns beating him. They also shared pictures of his bloodied body before he ultimately died from his injuries.
As the nine Memphis sheriff’s deputies face indictments, the federal Department of Justice is investigating Memphis police practices.
Meanwhile, the family of Gershun Freeman demands accountability. Kimberly Freeman, Gershun’s mother, said she wants justice for him 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 when the footage was first released. “We want answers.”
The Memphis deputies face an Oct. 27 court hearing.