Nine corrections deputies in Memphis, Tennessee have been indicted in connection with the death of Gershun Freeman, a Black man who died after being beaten while in custody. The incident occurred in October of last year, as confirmed by Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner. Freeman, who suffered from psychosis and cardiovascular disease, was allegedly punched, kicked, and had jailers kneel on his back. According to a lawyer representing Freeman’s family, he was being held in an area designated for suicidal inmates and was reportedly beaten after yelling in his cell throughout the day.
Freeman had been booked on charges of attacking and kidnapping his girlfriend on October 1. In video footage released in March, two officers are seen serving meals to inmates when Freeman’s cell opens and he runs out naked, appearing to run towards the officers. He is tackled to the ground, where the officers proceed to punch, kick, and pepper-spray him. Additional officers join in the altercation, with at least 10 officers involved in the beating, as reported.
The autopsy report from the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center lists Freeman’s death as a homicide. However, the report clarifies that the manner of death “is not meant to definitively indicate criminal intent.” Two deputies have been charged with second-degree murder, while seven others face charges of aggravated assault. The specific details of the indictments have not been made public.
Sheriff Bonner maintains that no action by any Shelby County Sheriff’s Office employee caused Freeman’s death. However, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy has requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident. It is worth noting that Shelby County is still dealing with the aftermath of Tyre Nichols’ death earlier this year, who died after being beaten by five police officers during a traffic stop. Seven officers involved in that incident were fired and now face charges of second-degree murder and federal civil rights violations.