Mimesis Law
10 August 2020

Former Columbus, Mississippi Officer Canyon Boykin Indicted

September 27, 2016 (Fault Lines) – On October 16, 2015, almost a year ago, Ricky Ball, a black man, jumped out of a car being stopped by Columbus police officers. Ball ran, was tasered, ran some more, was shot twice by officer Canyon Boykin, and ran some more. Ball bled out in between two houses, near some marijuana and a 9mm pistol. That seems pretty cut and dried, on the surface, but not so shiny when you start to look at it closer.

It is a shame that there wasn’t any body cam video. Even though Boykin, Johnny Branch, and Yolanda Young were all wearing body cams, not a single officer activated their camera. Not one. The city turned the criminal investigation over to the state.

The three officers were part of the Police Department’s “Special Operations Group,[1]” a name that sounds eerily like a military covert unit, and were in a single unmarked car, along with Boykin’s fiancé, Alisha Stanford.[2] They tried to stop the car and Ball ran. Boykin said that Ball pointed a pistol at him, and a 9mm gun was found next to Ball’s body.

Of course, that wasn’t the whole story. The pistol had been “stolen” from another officer’s home. That’s right, it had been stolen from Officer Garrett Mittan’s home, who, coincidentally was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene. Supposedly the pistol was stolen in one of two burglaries, one in September, 2014[3] and the other in August. 2015. It is also a coincidence that this information was not released by the police department until almost two weeks after the shooting of Ball.

Although the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation was handling the criminal investigation, multiple offense reports appeared. One said Ball was tased, the other did not. It would be relatively easy to determine, the Taser X26 records all discharges of the weapon, but that information was not released. There were widespread allegations of a cover-up and conspiracy.

In the aftermath, Boykin was asked to resign by the Chief of Police, Tony Carleton, and tendered his resignation. The City Council refused to accept it, and terminated Boykin, but not for the shooting. Instead, they fired him for violating the body cam policies, by having his fiancé riding with him, and for violating the social media policy.[4]

Branch and Young were suspended for 30 days for not reporting Stanford in the vehicle and for not activating their body cams. Carleton resigned the next day to take a police instructor job. This is apparently a trend.[5] Mittan just tendered his resignation days ago, just after the indictment of Boykin was announced. The department has an authorized staff of 77 sworn officers, but only has 45 officers on staff.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Boykin was indicted for manslaughter?

On September 8th, the grand jury in Lowndes County, Mississippi indicted Boykin. This case has also been handled the way that it should have been investigated, although it could have been done in less time. The local police handed the investigation off to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. The local District Attorney handed off the prosecution to the Mississippi Attorney General. Both have done their job. The city has created an oversight committee, headed by a local minister, Steven James. None of this would have happened if the sitting District Attorney had not been defeated for reelection by Scott Collum.

In the meantime, Boykin has sued the city, alleging wrongful termination based on his First Amendment rights to free speech, and stating that he was fired because he was white and Ball was black. Yeah, okay.

And now Boykin wants a change of venue, saying that he cannot receive a fair trial in Lowndes County. What’s even more interesting is that the Lowndes County Sheriff, Mike Arledge, and the former sheriff, Wayne Beard, swore out affidavits in support of Boykin’s motion.

This is a preview of how change is going to happen across our country if we want police officers to be held accountable for their actions. The established law enforcement community is not going to like it. That’s why officers are bailing from the Columbus Police Department and why the sheriffs are supporting a homicide defendant. When’s the last time you saw that? Or more specifically, when’s the last time you saw it when the defendant was an average citizen instead of a cop?

Back in February, when Boykin filed his lawsuit, but before he was indicted, PoliceOne ran the story. Comments were universally supportive of Boykin, such as:

They thought they had a sacrificial lamb laid out on the alter [sic] of political correctness.  They danced around the golden calf until they noticed the lamb missing from the alter [sic] was now the Ram glowering at them from the hill.  The ram lowers its head………………

That really shows no understanding of the feeling of the community. The officers thought that because Boykin sued, he will win. That’s their mindset, that’s what they believe.

Police officers really do not understand the feeling of the community, the distrust that they, the police, have created, and what it is going to take to fix this widening gulf. I can tell you one thing, establishing a mini-Rambo squad called the SOG is not going to endear you to the community. Potentially planting guns and evidence? Ditto.

They are going to have to understand that they will be held accountable, but they don’t. Until they do, it’s going to be more of the same, and it will get worse before it gets better.

[1] The SOG was supposed to “improve” community relations, although their tactics were hardly conducive to that goal.

[2] Stanford had not been approved for a ride-along, and almost every department prohibits this without prior OK from a supervisor.

[3] Supposedly while Mittan was at work—except that work records showed that he was off that day.

[4] Boykin allegedly made posts to Instagram that were racist.

[5] The assistant police chief and the narcotics officer resigned before the end of 2015.

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  • Brad
    27 September 2016 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Wow, just wow. Thanks for the post, Mr. Prickett!