State authorities have completed an investigation into the police-involved shooting death of Ricky Ball in Columbus last October.
Warren Strain, spokesperson with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, confirmed to The Dispatch on Wednesday the bureau has turned its findings over to Scott Colom, local district attorney.
Colom said his office is in the process of reviewing the report. He said the time is not right to release the report to the public.
“I’m not going to release it to protect the integrity of the investigation,” Colom told The Dispatch. “At this point, I can’t release any information to the public.”
The Dispatch has submitted a public records request for the report to Colom’s office.
The Dispatch has also submitted a public records request for the report to MBI. Strain responded that the bureau expects the report’s findings to be presented to a grand jury and therefore cannot release any information.
“If we were to do so, it could harm the legal process relative to this issue,” Strain said in an email. “Once that process is concluded, we will be happy to provide the requested information to the extent of legal permissibility.”
Colom said whether he releases information from the report in the future will depend on what steps he decides to take next. Colom has said in the past he may consider asking Attorney General Jim Hood to appoint a special prosecutor for the case, if necessary.
Ball, 26, was shot to death by former Columbus Police Department officer Canyon Boykin on Oct. 16. The incident occurred after an attempted traffic stop near the intersection of 21st Street North and 15th Avenue North. Ball, police said, was a passenger in the car being stopped and fled on foot.
He was subsequently shot twice, according to Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant. He was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle after officers found him on the ground roughly a block and a half away. Authorities said a 9mm pistol was found nearby. State authorities, as part of their investigation, were conducting tests on the firearm to see if Ball possessed it at anytime. The pistol, according to city officials, had been stolen from a CPD officer’s home in the months prior to Ball’s death.
Boykin did not turn his body camera on before or during the shooting incident. The city council later fired Boykin. He has since filed a federal lawsuit against the city, in which he claims Ball pointed a pistol at him prior to the shooting.
Earnesto Ball, Ricky Ball’s first cousin, said the family did not know about MBI completing its investigation until Ward 4 Councilman Marty Turner contacted him.
“That’s part of it down,” Earnesto Ball said. “There’s at least a little relief that that part of it is over.”
Ball hopes the case will progress faster now that the MBI investigation is finished.
“Hopefully, everything will move kind of swiftly now,” Earnesto said. “I think, personally, the MBI investigation was going to be the longest part of it, besides if there will be any court procedures or trials on it. That will probably take a little while, but I don’t think it will be as long as this MBI investigation.”
Mayor Robert Smith, in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, said the city has not interfered in the MBI investigation and will maintain that hands-off approach now that the district attorney’s office has the case. Smith said the city will respect the report’s confidentiality.
“We do not know and will not know the findings of the investigation until any information is released to the general public,” Smith said. “At this time, the case is in the hands of the District Attorney’s office. We have not and will not ask for any indication of what is contained in the investigative report.”
“The city has confidence in the justice system and knows that justice will prevail,” Smith added.
Smith has previously told The Dispatch that the FBI will conduct a review of the case after MBI finished its investigation.
‘We want to know what happened’
Turner, who has pushed for action on the case, said he’s glad the report has made it to the district attorney’s office.
“Now it’s in the hands of the DA, and that’s what we wanted to see,” Turner said. “However this falls, we want to see the evidence on this case and make sure that we get justice. Either way, we want justice. We want to know what happened.”
Turner said he’s hopeful that the facts on the case will eventually come out and end public speculation. Ball’s death 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.
Turner also called on Colom to be transparent and to take action on the case if needed.
“Scott said he would take priority with violent crime,” Turner said. “This is a potential violent crime. I want to see him live up to his word.”
Tupelo attorney Jim Waide, who is representing Boykin in his lawsuit against the city, told The Dispatch on Wednesday that he had not yet seen the report.
“I have not seen (the report) but I’m absolutely confident it’ll show it was self-defense because there’s absolutely no basis to say otherwise,” Waide said. “But I’ll be interested in seeing it.”
Waide expressed his confidence in MBI’s fact-gathering capabilities, and said he probably won’t get a copy of the report until after the criminal case is completed.
Dispatch reporter Isabelle Altman contributed to this report.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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