Expert: JPD officers demonstrated no crisis training, used stun gun on Keith Murriel despite no ‘active aggression’ from him

Ole Miss criminal justice professor raises several red flags after viewing body camera video of Murriel’s final moments
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 7:09 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As lawyers for three indicted former Jackson police officers begin the lengthy process of preparing for trial after a man died in their custody, an expert in criminal justice tells WLBT the officers acted as if they had no crisis or de-escalation training, using a tazer more than 50 times to force the man to comply.

The footage, released by the city of Jackson Wednesday, shows moments that would forever connect the lives of officers Kenya McCarty, Avery Willis, and James Land with 41-year-old Keith Murriel, who died shortly after that encounter on New Year’s Eve last year.

The first part of the footage shows officers reacting the way they’re expected to, according to Ole Miss criminal justice professor Wes Jennings.

McCarty sternly told Murriel to leave the hotel parking lot after other individuals said he was causing problems.

“I can’t be disrespected like that, that many times,” McCarty said as she vented to the facility’s security officer and Willis. “And he’s just standing there.”

Once Murriel came back, Jennings said things escalated dramatically when McCarty pulled out the tazer.

A 3 On Your Side forensic analysis of the video previously showed Murriel was stunned at least 52 times in 16 minutes, with officers asking repeatedly for Murriel to comply.

All of a sudden [it] went to a higher level than [it] likely needed to be in, and then for a series of [a] pretty significant amount of time, you had the officers repeatedly using the stun gun to try to subdue him into compliance,” Jennings said. “No policy or training is going to advocate using pepper spray 50 times or a taser 50 times. They’re meant to be kind of a one-off, one-time use generally to try to result in compliance when you have a perception of being at risk.”

Jennings said the officers should have allowed more time for Murriel to understand the commands being asked of him rather than continue to stun him because that strategy wasn’t working.

Typically other officers — even supervisors — can step in and help de-escalate the situation, he said.

When asked if he saw any evidence of de-escalation from Willis or Land, Jennings answered quickly.

“No, I didn’t see much at all with regards to, you know, the other officers to de-escalate this situation,” Jennings said. It was more of a, almost a reinforcement to the level of the aggression in the interaction already.”

Jennings said crisis intervention training is essential in responding to these kinds of situations where someone may be under the influence or mentally impaired, but the officers didn’t appear to have that, either.

“What I saw on the video, a lot of it was just continued aggression, and that’s obviously not something that is crisis intervention training. Crisis intervention is recognizing situations, recognizing individuals that are in crisis,” Jennings said. “Maybe they’re like, ‘This person seems kind of out of it’ or ‘We’ve asked him the same thing 40 times, and we’ve had the same response. Maybe you know, there’s issues going on.’”

One other major issue Jennings raised: officers placed Murriel in the patrol car in the prone position on his stomach and didn’t check on him again for more than 50 minutes.

Jennings said most departmental policies require a suspect to be placed upright, restrained, and monitored once they’re in the patrol car.

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