- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - A local prosecutor says he wants Mississippi’s attorney general to present a Columbus police shooting to grand jurors for possible criminal charges.

Lowndes County District Attorney Scott Colom said Wednesday that he’s asked Attorney General Jim Hood’s office to take over the case involving the death of Ricky Ball in October 2015.

Former Columbus police officer Canyon 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. Boykin is white. Ball was black.

Jim Waide, Boykin’s lawyer, said his client’s actions were justified.

“There’s absolutely no basis for a criminal indictment,” Waide said Tuesday.

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. 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 says Ball also threw away some cocaine he was carrying during the chase.

Investigators have released no findings on Boykin’s claims. Colom refused to discuss the findings of Mississippi Bureau of Investigation report that he received last month, saying it would prejudice grand jurors.

Colom said Hood’s office has agreed they will present the case to a grand jury, and not discard the evidence. Colom said that because he deals so closely with local police and is the former Columbus city prosecutor, people could question his impartiality.

“I think the best policy decision is not to have a local district attorney present officer-involved shootings to grand jurors, so you don’t have the appearance of bias,” Colom told reporters.

Allowing Hood to handle the case could shield Colom from the protests that have surrounded Ball’s death.

Antonio Long, a cousin of Ball’s who has been critical of police action, said Colom was “punting” to Hood.

“That’s not what we voted you in for,” Long said.

Colom, himself 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.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy. Read his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy

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