JACKSON, Miss. — A lawyer said Thursday that a former Mississippi police officer who is white has been indicted in the October 2015 shooting death of a black man.
Attorney Jim Waide said a prosecutor told him Canyon Boykin, a white former police officer in Columbus, has been indicted for manslaughter in the death of Ricky Ball. Boykin hasn’t yet been served with the indictment, but Waide said he’s scheduled to appear in court Friday in Columbus.
District Attorney Scott Colom transferred the case to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood in July, saying it would prevent appearance of bias. Hood’s office agreed to present the case to a Lowndes County grand jury.
A spokeswoman for Hood declined to comment Thursday, citing court rules. Indictments remain secret until served in Mississippi.
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.
Philip Stinson Sr., a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, found that from 2005 to 2015, 65 police officers were charged with murder or manslaughter after shooting and killing someone while on duty. Stinson found that only 22 percent of those charged through 2014 had been convicted. Stinson said 18 officers were charged in 2015, the most during the time period
“Juries seem reluctant to second-guess the split second life-or-death decisions of police officers to employ deadly force in street encounters,” Stinson wrote in an online research brief.
Waide said in July that Boykin’s actions were justified, saying there was “absolutely no basis for a criminal indictment.”
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 in a suit that remains pending. 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 local hospital and died from blood loss.
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. Boykin said Ball also threw away some cocaine he was carrying during the chase.
Investigators have released no findings on Boykin’s claims.
Colom said in July that because he deals so closely with local police and is the former Columbus city prosecutor, people could question his impartiality.
Colom, who himself is black, unseated longtime prosecutor Forrest Allgood last year in an expensive race where Colom said he would spend less time prosecuting people for low-level drug crimes. Liberal financier George Soros spent more than $700,000 to support Colom and attack Allgood, who had attracted criticism for prosecuting people later found innocent.