Call for grand jury to probe police shooting in Mississippi

AP News
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Posted: Jul 06, 2016 5:50 PM
Call for grand jury to probe police shooting in Mississippi

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — A prosecutor said Wednesday that he wants Mississippi's attorney general to present a shooting case last year in the Mississippi city of Columbus to grand jurors.

Lowndes County District Attorney Scott Colom said he has asked Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's office to take over the case involving the October 2015 death of Ricky Ball.

Former Columbus police officer Canyon Boykin has said he shot Ball after the 26-year-old appeared to point a gun at Boykin during a foot chase.

Ball's family has disputed whether Boykin had cause to shoot Ball, one of many shootings under heightened scrutiny after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2015.

Boykin is white. Ball was black.

Jim Waide, Boykin's lawyer, said his client's actions were justified.

"There's absolutely no basis for a criminal indictment," Waide said Tuesday.

The city fired Boykin as he was trying to resign within weeks of the shooting, saying he had broken department policy by not turning on his body camera, by inviting his then-fiancee to ride along with the patrol without permission, and by making social media posts that were derogatory toward African-Americans, women and disabled people.

Boykin sued the city in February, claiming officials violated his First Amendment rights by firing him over social media posts, violating his due process rights by not giving him an unbiased hearing, and knuckling under to "uninformed public pressure." He's seeking money damages and reinstatement. City officials have denied wrongdoing.

In the lawsuit, Boykin said he shocked Ball with a stun gun, and then saw while Ball was lying on the ground that he had a handgun. Boykin said that Ball recovered from the shock and began to run again, turning as if to shoot the officer. Boykin said that's when he shot Ball. Hit twice by bullets, Ball was taken to a hospital where he died.

A pistol that had been reported stolen from a Columbus police officer's home was found near Ball's body, as was a substance believed to be marijuana, authorities said.

Investigators have released no findings on Boykin's claims.

Colom refused to discuss the findings of Mississippi Bureau of Investigation report that he received last month, saying it would prejudice grand jurors.

Colom said Hood's office has agreed they will present the case to a grand jury, and not discard the evidence. Colom said that because he deals so closely with local police and is the former Columbus city prosecutor, people could question his impartiality.

"I think the best policy decision is not to have a local district attorney present officer-involved shootings to grand jurors, so you don't have the appearance of bias," Colom told reporters.

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