After Tyre Nichols Police Violence Killing, Lawyers of Gershun Freeman Family Discuss Another Memphis In-Custody Death  

By Perla Brito 

MEMPHIS, TN – The family of Gershun Freeman—killed by correctional officers here—civil rights and personal injury attorney, Ben Crump, along with his co-counsel Jake Brown and Brice Timmons, held a news conference this week to address Freeman’s wrongful death and recent release of the video from the horrific attack by Shelby County correctional officers.

Crump said Freeman died in Shelby County Jail after a violent interaction with officers.

He was found to have multiple bruises and deep cuts when he died. Freeman’s manner of death was listed as a homicide, and a nearly 14-minute video from the incident shows five officers beating Freeman to death as he was naked and handcuffed, said the family.

“This is the first time that we’ve had an opportunity publicly with these great lawyers who are my co counsels to break down the video for you and more important the first time publicly you will hear from his mother, Kim Freeman, and his father, George Burke about yet again another video of an unarmed Black man being killed by law enforcement here in Shelby county Tennessee.

“What is going on in Memphis is what people around America are asking,” said Crump, according to a report from Action News 5).

Tyre Nichols parents, RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, were also present to give statements “along with the parents of Gershun Freeman because as you all know they’ve had to go through similar experiences of speaking to the media after they saw a horrific video of their loved one being killed in just the most unbelievable way,” Crump said.

He added, “It’s far too many people who need a helping hand from law enforcement, but they get brutality, they get the death sentence, they get broken-hearted parents. Well today, we are going to start to ring the alarm in America that a mental health crisis should not mean the death sentence if the color of your skin is Black”

Attorney Brown charged, “With both Tyre Nichols and Gershun Freeman, the world saw what I think we can all agree is some of the worst of Memphis, in the actions of the Memphis police department and now in Mr. Freeman’s case, the actions of the Shelby County sheriff.”

The legal team talked about the video at the last press conference before it was released, but “Now the world has been able to see” what they saw, “see what actually happened to Gershun Freeman after the officer opened his cell door that they did not need to open,” said Attorney Brown.

According to Brown, “Mr. Freeman ran out and was subjected to a gauntlet of punches, kicks, he was stricken with implements ranging from handcuffs to heavy rings of jail keys. He was hit with canisters of chemical irritant in addition to being sprayed with chemical irritant. It was not the way that our community, the people we put in place to watch over detainees in the jail, should allow things to operate, not by any means.”

“I want to talk briefly, to turn back to Tyre Nichols just for a moment, because in the aftermath of that case we heard a lot about the Memphis model and how well, how prompt, the city administration dealt with the officers, dealt administratively with the officers who were involved in that murder, but calling it the Memphis model, giving recognition to Chief Davis for the swift action was not empty praise. It was setting the bar. That has become the new standard.,” said Brown.

But, Sheriff Floyd Bonner publicly announced he is taking no administrative action against the officers involved in that video until the criminal investigation is complete, according to Action News 5.

“What that means, until the criminal investigation is complete, those deputies that we all watched beat this young man, this helpless young man on the ground worn around their fists like brass knuckles, those deputies are still as we speak still in charge of the detainees down at the Shelby County Jail.,” said Brown.

He said he finds that “unacceptable” and “a disgrace… we need to see Sheriff Bonner start taking the misconduct of his officers seriously because we all saw it for ourselves.”

Attorney Timmons said, “It’s a little chillier out here than I expected today…but it’s not as cold out here as it was on that concrete jail floor when Gershun Freeman was stripped naked and beaten to death in the cold…”

“He was in a suicide watch cell because he was having a mental health crisis and when you have a mental health crisis in the Shelby County Jail, for what they claim is for your own safety, they leave you naked, alone in a cell.,” added Timmons.

He added, “You’re supposed to be watched by medical personnel. You’re supposed to be seen by nurses…by the kind of people that can help intervene in a mental health crisis and de-escalate problems, but there were none to be found.”

Tyre Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells stated, “Tyre Nichols was our son. I’m here today to give support to this lady. She also lost her son in a brutal way and she lost her only son so I can just imagine what she’s going through because I know what I am going through. I have three other children that I can depend on, but this woman right here lost her only son… to police violence.”

George Burke, Gershun Freeman’s father said, “I would like to see all of them officers punished, brought into justice, y’all seen the tape just as well as we did, how they beat my baby…Y’all seen it just like we seen it and [Sheriff Floyd] Bonner talking about they didn’t do anything wrong… hold them folks accountable.”

Kim Freeman, Gershun Freeman’s mother, said she wants justice for her son, but also wants to know who are the people that murdered her son, reported Action News 5.

“They have blood on their hands. They go home every night to their family, whereas for me and my granddaughter we have to see my son, her father, in a box. We didn’t plan this. My son had a lot of dreams…he cared for people in general and for the people who murdered my son in this hellhole, we want answers. Bring those people to the front of the courthouse. We want to see them, justice.,” said Kim Freeman.

Attorney Crump said he has reached out to the Department of Justice to perform a civil rights investigation on the Gershun Freeman’s case, said Action News 5.

About The Author

Perla Brito is a 4th year undergraduate student at California State University, Long Beach. She is majoring in Criminology and Criminal Justice and is set to graduate by Spring 2023. After graduation she plans on working at a local police department in the criminal investigations division. She intends to pursue a Masters in Psychology with a focus in Neuroscience in hopes of working on neurocriminology research one day.

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