Former Columbus Police Department officer Canyon Boykin is led from the Lowndes County Courthouse Friday morning in handcuffs while onlookers applaud. Boykin was indicted on charges of manslaughter by a grand jury yesterday. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
September 9, 2016 12:26:05 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
A former Columbus police officer is being charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Ricky Ball.
Canyon Boykin, 26, pleaded not guilty in Lowndes County Circuit Court this morning. Judge Jim Kitchens set his bond at $20,000.
One of Boykin's attorneys, Jim Waide of Tupelo, confirmed to The Dispatch Thursday a Lowndes County grand jury had indicted former Columbus police officer Canyon Boykin in the shooting death in the Oct. 16, 2015, fatal shooting. Jackson attorney Jeff Reynolds is co-counsel on the case.
An indictment means a grand jury found sufficient evidence to formally charge an individual with a crime. It is not an indication of guilt. If convicted, Boykin faces up to 20 years in prison.
Reynolds said Boykin is expected to be free on bond later today. He told media he could not comment on the details of the investigation but was "flabbergasted" by Boykin's indictment.
"In my 30-plus years of law practice, I have never seen a bigger travesty of justice than this indictment of this police officer," Reynolds said. "It's an absolute travesty, and he will be found not guilty. He's innocent of this charge."
Attorneys for Boykin walked into the front door of Lowndes County Courthouse at about 9:30 a.m. Moments later, a red pickup carrying the suspect pulled up at the building's back entrance, and Boykin was hurriedly escorted inside. The hearing was held behind closed doors.
About a dozen Boykin supporters gathered outside the courthouse during the proceedings. Afterwards Boykin was led from the courthouse in handcuffs as onlookers applauded.
Boykin is accused of shooting the 26-year-old Ball following a traffic stop near the intersection of 21st Street North and 15th Avenue North. Boykin is white; Ball was black.
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 from the traffic stop site.
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 any time. 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. He also reportedly had an unauthorized passenger riding with him in his patrol car.
The city council later fired Boykin, citing the officer had also violated the city's social media policy by making derogatory posts toward African Americans, women and disabled people after the incident. He later filed a federal lawsuit against the city, in which he claims Ball pointed a pistol at him prior to the shooting.
However, federal court documents in the U.S. District Court of Northern Mississippi indicate a settlement conference scheduled for Sept. 16 "has been canceled until further notice from the court."
Ball's family filed a notice of intent in July to sue the city for his death. Mose Lee Sudduth, a Vernon, Alabama, attorney representing the family, declined to comment extensively on Boykin's indictment. However, he told The Dispatch the family is pleased to see the case moving forward.
"Obviously the family is relieved that something is being done," Sudduth said.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation completed a review of the case and sent it to District Attorney Scott Colom in June. A month later, Colom handed the case to a special prosecutor appointed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
Hood's office issued a statement immediately following the arraignment, which called the Ball shooting "unnecessary."
"The Lowndes County grand jury has given me my marching orders as a prosecutor. It is my duty to carry out those orders and present the case to a Lowndes County Circuit Court jury at trial," Hood's statement said. "Our police officers put their lives on the line for us every day. We owe it to them and to our citizens to see that the highest standards of conduct are always met."
Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander will prosecute the case against Boykin, the release added.
Ball's shooting happened in Columbus' Ward 4. That ward's councilman, Marty Turner, said he hopes the city can begin to move forward as Boykin's case moves forward.
"Now it's time for the city to start healing," Turner said. "As this case comes to a close, because I know it's not going to come to a close tomorrow, we're hopefully going to start seeing evidence and a justice system that works for all."
District 41 State Rep. Kabir Karriem, formerly the Columbus councilman for Ward 5, praised both investigators' efforts and the public's patience with the process Thursday in an email statement.
"Police shootings of unarmed individuals have become a national epidemic," the statement said. "And too often, police officers involved in these incidents are not held accountable regardless of the obvious facts and incriminating evidence. ...I look forward to seeing this case resolved so that Ricky Ball's family and the Columbus community can move forward and put this unfortunate incident behind them."
Boykin was once employed at The Dispatch as a pressman.
The Dispatch will update this story as new information is available.
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