Two Memphis jail deputies, Stevon Jones and Courtney Parham, have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Gershun Freeman, a Black man who died in custody last fall. Court documents released on Thursday reveal that Freeman, who was experiencing a psychotic episode, was subjected to punches, kicks, and kneeling on his back during a confrontation with the jailers. Jones and Parham are also facing charges of aggravated assault while acting in concert with others. Jones faces an additional count of assault.
Additionally, seven other deputies, namely Jeffrey Gibson, Anthony Howell, Damian Cooper, Ebonee Davis, Lareko Donwel Elliot, Chelsey Duckett, and one officer whose name was redacted, have been charged with aggravated assault resulting in the death of another individual. The grand jury issued the indictments on Tuesday, and warrants were issued on Wednesday. All eight deputies have been placed on administrative leave.
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, who is running for mayor of Memphis, disclosed the indictments on Wednesday evening. However, he refused to provide further information at the time and accused the investigation of being politically motivated. Bonner pledged to help raise money for the deputies’ legal fees. Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who had previously endorsed a different mayoral candidate before Freeman’s death and Bonner’s candidacy announcement, has recused himself from the case. Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk has been assigned to oversee the investigation.
Earlier this year, video footage released by Funk showed Freeman being beaten by at least 10 corrections officers on October 5, 2020, after he ran naked from his cell at the Shelby County Jail. The video depicts officers wrestling Freeman to the ground, punching, kicking, and pepper-spraying him. The struggle continues as additional officers join in. Freeman is seen running up an escalator while still naked before being restrained again in a different hallway. Officers can be seen stepping and kneeling on his back before he becomes motionless. Medical employees arrive later, and Freeman is found to have died of a heart attack while being restrained.
Freeman’s death has been listed as a homicide in the autopsy report from the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center, although the report clarifies that this does not definitively indicate criminal intent. Brice Timmons, a lawyer representing Freeman’s family, holds Sheriff Bonner responsible for Freeman’s death.
A hearing for the deputies is scheduled for October 27. It is currently unknown if the indicted deputies have legal representation.