Three police officers in Jackson, Mississippi have been indicted on second-degree murder charges stemming from the death of a man they arrested in January 2019, Fox News reported. The indictments come after the mayor asked for another review of the incident.
The three officers, who at the time worked together for the Jackson Police Department, stand accused of having “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” caused the death of 62-year-old George Robinson by using excessive physical force during the arrest, according to the indictments.
Mississippi’s Clarion Ledger reports that officers Desmond Barney, Anthony Fox, and Lincoln Lampley were searching for suspects in the shooting death of a local pastor outside his church on Jan. 13, 2019, when they spotted Robinson in his vehicle in the area, which was his own neighborhood.
The officers pulled Robinson out of his vehicle for alleged “noncompliance” with their orders and, according to the indictments and witness accounts, proceeded to body-slam him on the ground and strike him repeatedly about his chest and head. He was then arrested for a misdemeanor and later released.
Robinson ended up going to a hospital later that evening and died two days later. According to the state medical examiner, Robinson died of subdural hemorrhaging caused by blunt force trauma to the head, and his death was ruled a homicide. Now, a year and a half after the incident, the three officers have been charged over his death.
Mayor orders independent review
Following the incident, the three officers were immediately been placed on administrative leave, but WLBT reported that the Jackson PD Internal Affairs had found no evidence of wrongdoing by the officers, an FBI investigation of the matter found that no civil rights had been violated, and the city’s civil service commission had given the officers the all-clear to return to duty.
However, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba insisted upon an additional review of the incident by the Hinds County District Attorney, who presented the case to a grand jury and returned with the second-degree murder charges.
In a statement from the mayor released on Thursday, he said the indictments were part of the “accountability process” that his administration had imposed on the police department. Robinson’s family also issued a statement which noted that they were “pleased” with the charges against the officers and “grateful” for the DA’s actions in pursuing justice for their lost loved one.
Attorney says officers will be “vindicated”
The Clarion Ledger reported that one of the attorneys for the charged officers, Francis Springer, insisted that evidence will show that the three men were not guilty of the charges against them and were doing their job as they’d been trained to do.
He acknowledged the need for accountability for wrongdoing and independent investigations of police-involved deaths, but also expressed his concern that these charges will have a “chilling effect” on the entire department, if not the state and region. “A lot of officers are afraid this will happen to them and in the long run this will hurt the department and city,” Springer said, though he maintained that eventually the officers would be “vindicated.”
The media outlet noted that the indictments against the officers were unsealed on Aug. 5. The officers turned themselves in on Thursday in order to post bond, which was set at $100,000 for Barney and Lampley and $250,000 for Fox.
It is unclear when, or even if, the case against the three officers will go to trial.