Georgia State Sen. Lester Jackson is sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking for a federal investigation of the officer-involved shooting in Savannah that led to the death of 20-year old Ricky Boyd. This comes after a WTOC investigation earlier this month pointing to inconsistencies in the case between what police say happened and what family members actually witnessed.
The attorney representing the Ricky Boyd family is concerned about leaving the case up to the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office because of a potential conflict of interest. Civil Rights Attorney Will Claiborne says the D.A. works and relies on Savannah Police Officers for many of their criminal cases so it’s potentially a conflict of interest for the D.A. to investigate an officer-involved shooting when it includes officers she works with.
In one-page letter that was sent on April 19 to Sessions, Jackson asks the “U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation of the Jan. 23 Officer-Involved Shooting of Ricky Boyd."
It’s been three months since U.S. Marshals and Savannah Police officers were looking for the 20-year-old because investigators say he was a prime suspect in the murder of Balil Whifield.
In a WTOC investigation earlier this month, we told you that the statements from police slowly changed. They said at first Boyd allegedly "initiated gunfire towards officers." Later they said, “a confrontation occurred between officers which resulted in officers discharging their firearms.”
But, according to Ricky Boyd’s mother, Jameillah Smiley, that’s not what she saw in the body camera video that investigators showed her. She says her son never had a gun and did not appear to be a threat to police.
“He comes out, he has his hands out and then he turns to his left to [face] some more officers. When he makes that turn again, his hands are still out, and he’s immediately shot,” Smiley said.
“Did it look like he had anything in his hands at all?” WTOC's Elizabeth Rawlins asked.
“No. He didn’t have anything in his hands,” Smiley replied.
The case is now receiving national attention and WTOC was there as Ricky Boyd’s mother and her attorney were being interviewed by PBS News Hour.
The Ricky Boyd family desperately wants answers from local law enforcement, which is why they took their concerns to state lawmakers and met with Jackson.
“It was touching to see someone that concerned about a situation and a constituent,” Claiborne said. “It was a moving meeting.”
Jackson is now calling for a federal investigation, stating in his letter to the attorney general, “Transferring the investigation to the U.S. Department of Justice will help avoid potential bias within the local district attorney’s office and will help restore the community’s trust in this investigation.”
“As we sit here right now, there are any number of criminal trials that are going on at the Chatham County Courthouse where this district attorney is relying on the credibility of law enforcement witnesses. And to ask this district attorney to turn around to investigate and prosecute officers from a department that she relies on day-in and day-out, I think asks too much,” Claiborne said. “To take it to that federal level where you can have that sort of dispassionate review I think just allows there to be more confidence that the right decision will be made, not a decision that may just be more politically comfortable.”
It’s been less than a week since the letter was sent. It will be up to Sessions and the U.S. Department of Justice to decide whether to take on the case. It’s unclear when a decision will be made.
The Chatham County District Attorney’s Office released a statement to WTOC saying:
“The District Attorney’s Office did not do the investigation. Savannah Police Department called in the GBI right after the incident occurred. All of our decisions are evidence-based. This is the process followed by District Attorney’s Offices across the state”
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