Attorney hosts press conference with families of Tyre Nichols, Gershun Freeman

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 12:38 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Attorney Ben Crump held a press conference Friday with the families of Gershun Freeman and Tyre Nichols.

Freeman, 33, died inside Shelby County Jail after an encounter with jailers on October 5, 2022. He was in custody for charges of aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping.

On March 2, the Nashville District Attorney’s Office released the surveillance video showing the 33-year-old’s final moments.

Despite his charges, Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump said Friday that Freeman was entitled to his civil rights.

“When you look at the video of Gershun and you think about that video... it just boggles the mind to see the way law enforcement treated a Black person who was having a mental health crisis,” Crump said.

In the video, the early morning of October 6, you see a naked Freeman charge out of his cell when the door was opened.

He was beaten by corrections officers before being apprehended, later dying.

According to one of Crump’s co-counselors, Attorney Brice Timmons, Freeman was on suicide watch after having a mental break while in custody.

“For what they claim is your own safety, they leave you naked, alone in a cell,” Timmons said. “You’re supposed to be watched by medical personnel. You’re supposed to be seen by nurses, by counselors, by the kind of people that can help intervene in a mental health crisis... There were none to be found.”

Gershun Freeman and his 10-year-old daughter.
Gershun Freeman and his 10-year-old daughter.(Action News 5)

Freeman’s parents, Kim Freeman and George Burks, gave brief statements on the ongoing case.

“They have blood on their hands,” Freeman said. “They go home every night to their family, whereas for me and my granddaughter, we have to see my son, her father, in a box.”

“Y’all have seen it, just live we’ve seen it,” Burks echoed, referring to the surveillance video. “(Sheriff) Bonner is talking about they didn’t do nothing wrong. Hold them folks accountable. (Mayor) Lee Harris, hold Bonner accountable.”

One of the things the attorneys allege is that the corrections officers involved in Freeman’s apprehension are still working at the Shelby County Jail.

“Until the criminal investigation is complete, those deputies that we all watched beat this young man... are still, as we speak, in charge of detainees down at the Shelby County Jail,” said Attorney Jake Brown.

Late Friday afternoon, SCSO responded to our request for comment, calling many of the attorneys’ statements as “significant misinformation.”

“That night all officers who had contact with Mr. Freeman were relieved of duty and remain in that status today,” the statement read in part.

Sheriff Floyd Bonner was also quoted in the statement, saying “It’s unfortunate this case is being tried in the media before the review is complete.”

Full Statement from SCSO:

Also with the Freeman family was the family of Tyre Nichols, showing their support.

Nichols’ died after members of MPD’s since-disbanded SCORPION Unit beat him during a traffic stop on Jan 7.

Friday’s conference came as documents were released showing a Memphis police lieutenant was able to retire just before a termination hearing connected to Nichols’ death.

Tyre Nichols
Tyre Nichols

RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, shared her sorrow for Freeman’s family.

“I have three other children that I can depend on, but this woman right here lost her only son,” she said.

The two families were used as a sort of comparison as to how both cases were treated.

“We saw what is possible when people and leadership positions take charge... unfortunately, it is the opposite of what we are seeing now from Sheriff Floyd Bonner,” said Attorney Jake Brown.

Several of the first responders associated with the Tyre Nichols traffic stop, most notably the ones charged with his death, had their identities made public prior to the conclusion of the criminal investigation surrounding Nichols’ death.

It’s been five months since Freeman’s death, and we still do not know a single identity of the officers who have been relieved of duty.

The case is currently in the hands of District Attorney Glenn Funk out of Nashville, a request made by Shelby County D.A. Steve Mulroy.

Crump also mentioned that, like in the Nichols case, he has reached out to the Department of Justice in hopes they perform a civil rights investigation on Gershun Freeman’s case.

He said the DOJ is currently deliberating that decision.

You can watch Friday’s presser in full below:

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.