COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - There’s enough evidence for the manslaughter trial of a former Mississippi police officer to move ahead, a judge ruled Thursday.
Lowndes County Circuit Judge Lee Coleman rejected an effort by ex-officer Canyon Boykin’s lawyer to throw out the charge, WCBI-TV reports.
Boykin, who is white, was indicted for manslaughter in the October 2015 shooting death of a black man in Columbus. Attorney General Jim Hood’s office is handling the prosecution.
Boykin has said he shot Ricky Ball after the 26-year-old appeared to point a gun at Boykin during a foot chase. Ball, a passenger in the stopped vehicle, had run away, with Boykin chasing him. Police later found a 9 mm handgun near Ball’s body. The shooting prompted protests in Columbus, and the City Council fired Boykin soon after. Council members said Boykin violated policy because he failed to activate his body camera before or during the incident and made inappropriate social media posts in its aftermath. Also, Boykin’s then-girlfriend was an unauthorized passenger in the patrol car the night of the shooting.
Boykin settled a wrongful termination suit against Columbus in early September on undisclosed terms. The city recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit by Ball’s heirs, also without disclosing terms. Boykin was dismissed from that lawsuit after refusing to agree to a settlement, saying he was “innocent of these false charges” and any money paid on his behalf, if even by an insurer, might hurt the perceptions of jurors in his criminal case.
Coleman has ordered the trial moved to south Mississippi’s Tylertown, citing pretrial publicity in Columbus.
Prosecutions of police officers for shooting at suspects are relatively rare in Mississippi. Hood’s office twice prosecuted Walter Grant on a manslaughter charge in a 2013 shooting death in Cleveland. Both of the Bolivar County sheriff’s deputy’s trials ended in hung juries, but Grant has been indicted in federal court on a charge of evidence tampering. Former Starkville officer Gary Wheeler was indicted earlier this year on aggravated assault charges after the June 2017 shooting of a man involved in a police chase.
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