It has been six months since Ricky Ball died in a police-involved shooting in Columbus and state investigators have yet to release any findings.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has been looking into the circumstances surrounding Ball’s death since shortly after it happened on Oct. 16. That night, the 26-year-old was shot after an attempted traffic stop. Since then, MBI has not released any information on the shooting.
In December, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith told The Dispatch a MBI official said the investigation should take four to six months.
State investigators have not said exactly what happened after Ball fled from an attempted traffic stop near the intersection of 21st Street North and 15th Avenue North; how many shots former Columbus police officer Canyon Boykin fired at Ball; where Ball was struck; if Ball possessed a firearm; or if narcotics were found near where Ball fell after being shot.
State investigators have also not publicly indicated a timeframe for when the investigation would be complete.
Ball was shot in Ward 4. Councilman Marty Turner told The Dispatch on Friday he wants to see MBI move faster on its investigation.
“It’s ridiculous,” Turner said. “It’s ridiculous that it would take that long for an investigation and we’re one of the major cities in Mississippi.”
Messages from the The Dispatch to MBI spokesperson Warren Strain and MBI director Larry Waggoner went unreturned last week.
On March 16, Strain told The Dispatch investigators were still “compiling test results and other components of the comprehensive case file.” At the time, Strain said MBI had not sent the investigation’s findings to District Attorney Scott Colom’s office.
Colom told The Dispatch on Friday he still has not received the case from MBI.
Columbus Police Chief Oscar Lewis told The Dispatch he did not know anything about the investigation, why it was taking longer than initially expected or when CPD will get an update.
“We’ve made inquiries,” Joe Dillon, the public information officer for the city of Columbus, said. “We’re told the same thing — it’s still a pending investigation.”
Smith said city officials are waiting on the investigation’s results “just like the rest of the community.”
“We have not received any additional information from MBI during the investigation,” the mayor said. “We know nothing other than what has been reported in the past and that the investigation continues and the results will be reported to the District Attorney.”
On the night of Oct. 16, CPD officers Boykin, Johnny Branch and Yolanda Young were in the police vehicle that initiated a traffic stop on a car Ball was riding in near the intersection of 21st Street North and 15th Avenue North.
Former Columbus Police Chief Tony Carleton, who resigned shortly after the incident, has said the stop was initiated because of careless driving, no light above the license plate and lack of insurance.
Police say Ball fled the scene on foot. He was ultimately shot twice, according to Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant. He was found roughly a block and a half away from where the traffic stop was initiated. A 9mm pistol and suspected marijuana were found near where he fell, according to CPD. He died that night from blood loss at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle.
Neither Boykin, Branch or Young activated their body cameras prior to or during the incident.
CPD officials said the 9mm found near Ball had been previously reported stolen from a Columbus police officers home. State officials told the city they would conduct forensic tests on the weapon to try and determine if Ball possessed it.
The shooting sparked a series of marches and community outcry at public meetings. City officials in early November organized a community meeting to address the incident. About 400 people attended.
The city council fired Boykin after the shooting and suspended Branch and Young. Young has said that on April 25, she will resign from the force for health concerns.
Earlier this year, Boykin filed a federal suit against the city. In his lawsuit, Boykin claims he tased Ball after Ball fled from the traffic stop.
The lawsuit says Ball fell on his back after being tased, and Boykin saw a pistol in Ball’s right hand across his chest.
“The effects of the Taser wore off and Ball got up and began to run,” the lawsuit continues. “As Ball was running, he turned his body to the right, facing (Boykin), as if to shoot (Boykin) with the pistol he had in his right hand.”
Boykin shot Ball at that point, according to the lawsuit, which is ongoing.
Waiting for closure
Earnesto Ball is Ricky Ball’s first cousin. He said it is hard for the family to wait so long without knowing for sure what happened.
“It makes it stressful,” he said. “We can’t get any closure without knowing anything. Everything we’ve heard from the council meetings or anything — it’s all the same. I understand they have a process and that by MBI doing the investigation the city wouldn’t know anything.
“But I don’t understand what’s taking so long, as far as the investigation goes,” Ball added. “I’ve heard so many stories it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went down.”
Boykin’s lawsuit claims that his dismissal as a result of the Ball incident “infringed on his good name and reputation, making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to find other employment.”
Jim Waide, Boykin’s attorney, said the prolonged investigation is also hindering closure for Boykin.
“It’s a cloud hanging over Mr. Boykin,” Waide said.
Turner said a lot of people, from Ball’s friends to those in the neighborhood, are waiting to see what comes out of MBI’s investigation.
“Don’t think we’re going to forget about it because we’re not going to forget about it,” Turner said. “We want to know what the conclusion is. A lot of people need closure.”