JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The son of a black man fatally shot by a white Mississippi police officer in 2015 has filed suit against the former officer, the city of Columbus and others, seeking payment for what the suit calls a wrongful death.
The civil suit was filed Thursday in federal court in Aberdeen by an appointed guardian for the underage son of 26-year-old shooting victim Ricky Ball. It says the shooting by officer Canyon Boykin was unjustified. It also claims another officer planted a gun on Ball’s body and that Columbus officials had known Boykin was a problem after a 2014 encounter with a black store manager.
City spokesman Joe Dillon said the city’s lawyers hadn’t received the lawsuit as of Friday morning and couldn’t comment on its claims. The suit names Boykin and three others who were then Columbus officers, along with the city and a former police chief.
Boykin said he shot Ball after the man appeared to point a gun at him during a foot chase Oct. 16, 2015. The officer was later fired and then in September indicted on a manslaughter charge. His attorney Jim Waide, when contacted Friday, said Boykin stands by his account of the shooting.
Boykin has sued the city, saying his firing violated his civil rights.
Investigators haven’t released their report, but Thursday’s lawsuit challenges Boykin’s version of events. It alleges that Columbus leaders know a “code of silence” exists where officers with the Columbus police department, or CPD, don’t report other officers’ misconduct.
“As a result of the ‘code of silence’ which exists at the CPD, officers act unconstitutionally without fear of discipline from the CPD,” the suit states.
The city fired Boykin as he was trying to resign within weeks of the Ball shooting, with authorities 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, in his lawsuit against the city, 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. The shooting victim, hit twice by bullets, died at a hospital.
The lawsuit disputes that Ball could have recovered from the stun gun. It added that an autopsy shows Ball was shot in the back.
“Ball could not have placed the individual defendants’ lives in danger while fleeing the individual defendants on foot, with his back turned to the individual defendants,” it states.
The suit questions the handgun found near Ball, alleging another officer placed it there. That officer reported the gun stolen 12 days after the shooting, saying it had been stolen sometime before Oct. 16. The suit also says that two separate incident reports in the case - only one of which says Boykin used a stun gun and that Ball had a pistol - were part of a “cover up.”
The suit also focuses on Boykin’s July 2014 arrest of a store manager, who was accused of disobeying a police officer. The manager threatened to sue the city, claiming Boykin and three others racially profiled him, harassing him in the parking lot as he was preparing to open the store. In that incident, as in the Ball shooting, none of the officers turned their body cameras on, violating city policy, though the store manager asked that they be activated. The charge against that store manager was dismissed and the city settled the threatened suit for an undisclosed amount.
Thursday’s lawsuit said that incident should have put Columbus on notice that Boykin wasn’t using his body camera and might have racist tendencies.
Waide represented the store manager in his claim against the city, but U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock ruled earlier this month that he could remain Boykin’s lawyer in Boykin’s civil suit.
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