For nearly an hour and a half, angry citizens railed against city officials for a lack of details on the incident that ended with a Columbus Police Department officer killing 26-year-old Ricky Ball on Friday night.
Citizens filled the municipal court to the brim Tuesday evening for a Columbus City Council meeting. Early on, city officials struggled to determine how to handle the crowd, as an otherwise light agenda quickly took a back seat to a prolonged citizen comment session.
Ball was a passenger in a car police officers attempted to stop about 10 p.m. Friday near the intersection of 14th Avenue North and 21st Street North. A woman driving the car did not stop immediately and Ball jumped from the car and ran, according to Warren Strain, spokesperson with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
Columbus Police Chief Tony Carleton said a scuffle occurred during the incident, but has declined to provide further details. Officials have not indicated if Ball was armed or fired any shots at officers.
Little new information arose during the meeting, as Carleton repeatedly told frustrated speakers that he could not comment on much of the case due to an ongoing MBI investigation.
Carleton confirmed during a conversation with Ball’s uncle, David Weatherspoon, that the attempted traffic stop that spawned the incident were for minor charges.
“One of them was for no insurance,” he said, to the ire of the crowd, “and the other was for no tag lights. That was the reason for the stops.”
Carleton could say little else, as MBI has requested that city officials refer any questions on the incident or its investigation to spokesperson Warren Strain.
Weatherspoon repeatedly asked to know who the female driver was. Carleton declined to release the information, citing the investigation. City officials declined to answer if the driver had been arrested
“As a family member, I think it’s my right to be able to confront a witness in any situation where a life has been taken,” Weatherspoon said. “Wouldn’t you want to know what happened if you had someone involved in an accident or was killed? In all fairness, now, if that was your son, or your nephew, you’d be like, ‘Wait a minute now, where is she at? Who is she?'”
Weatherspoon, and several other speakers, expressed skepticism CPD will release any information without tampering with it, despite Carleton’s repeated assurances for transparency.
“I know we’ve got an investigation,” Weatherspoon said. “We ain’t trying to figure out a lot of stuff that doesn’t really matter. We just want to know what happened at the moment it happened. We’re just trying to get the significant stuff. Who was this lady? What role did she play? How do I know she wasn’t police?”
As the night wore on, many citizens asked Carleton about rumors that have emerged in the days since Ball’s shooting. One speaker said he’d been harassed by officers before, while others asked why Ball was reportedly shot in the back. Officials say Ball was struck twice. However, they have declined to release where the bullets struck him.
Some comments were heated. One speaker called Columbus Mayor Robert Smith “an embarrassment to black people.”
Others, such as those from Kingdom Vision International Church Pastor RJ Matthews, urged calm from the community while seeking accountability from city officials.
“We’ve got to hold them (city officials) accountable — we’ve got to hold them accountable to the things that are valuable to our community,” Matthews said. “But not only that, guys, because you know what? We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable. We’ve got to hold each other accountable.
“Nobody should be assumed to be guilty,” Matthews later said. “Not Ricky, not the officer. That’s the kind of responsibility that we have to take together. If we can do that, we’ll get through this.”