Jackson, MS – Three Mississippi police officers have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a man who died days after being briefly arrested and released by Jacksonville police.
Prosecutors allege that Jacksonville Police Department (JPD) Officer Desmond Barney, 31, Officer Vincent Lampley, 33, and Officer Anthony Fox, 35, yanked 62-year-old George Robinson from a vehicle during an encounter in January of 2019, then body-slammed him headfirst onto the pavement and repeatedly beat him in his chest and head, the Clarion Ledger reported.
According to the indictment, the officers “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously” caused Robinson’s death.
But the JPD Internal Affairs investigation and a separate civil rights investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not find any evidence of wrongdoing on the officers’ part, WLBT reported.
“This is something that should have never been indicted, and every police officer that works particularly in Jackson and in this county could find themselves in this position,” one of the officers’ attorneys, Francis Springer, told the news outlet.
According to police, the officers were searching for the suspects in the murder of Reverend Anthony Longino on Jan. 13, 2019, when they came across Robinson, the Clarion Ledger reported.
Investigators said they believed Robinson was in the midst of a drug transaction inside his vehicle, so they approached him and ordered him to show his hands, according to WLBT.
Robinson allegedly ignored their commands and kept his hands down between the seats, so the officers pulled him out of the vehicle onto the ground and handcuffed him, police said.
The officers denied prosecutors’ allegations that they beat Robinson, WLBT reported.
They called American Medical Response to the scene to check him over, but Robinson refused treatment, the Clarion Ledger reported.
The suspect was ultimately charged with resisting arrest and failure to obey a police officer, and was released with a court date.
Witnesses said that after being released, Robinson remained at the scene for about an hour before he headed to the Mustang Motel, where he was residing, WLBT reported.
Several people went in and out of his room over the course of the night, motel security footage showed.
Hours later, Robinson’s girlfriend called for an ambulance and Robinson was rushed to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Clarion Ledger reported.
He died of a subdural hemorrhage two days later.
Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart determined that Robinson’s death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma, WLBT reported.
After being cleared of wrongdoing by the FBI and JPD internal affairs investigators, all three officers were cleared to return to duty by the Jackson Civil Service Commission, according to the Clarion Ledger.
Officer Lampley still works for JPD, but has been reassigned to a desk job while the case is pending.
Officer Barney and Officer Fox have since left the department to work for the Clinton Police Department (CPD), WLBT reported.
Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher and CPD Chief Ford Hayman have both been vocal supporters of the officers since they were indicted on the murder charges.
“We don’t want anything to do with a bad cop, and if I thought these guys were bad cops, we wouldn’t have hired them,” Chief Hayman told WLBT. “When the facts come out, I think everyone is going to scratch their head and wonder how did this come about originally.”
Fisher said that Officer Barney and Officer Fox will not be placed on leave while the case winds through the court.
“They’re going to stay on salary, they’re going to stay busy, and we’re going to go through this process,” he told WLBT.
“I hope the press will spend as much time in the exoneration process as they have in the accusing process,” the mayor added.
All three officers have pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charges they are facing, the Clarion Ledger reported.
“Our facts are going to prove that these officers did no wrong,” Springer told WLBT. “They did their job and exactly their job.”
Robinson’s family said in a statement that they were pleased to learn that the officers involved in Robinson’s arrest “have finally been charged with murder,” WLBT reported. “The charges prove that George’s life mattered and no one deserves to die the way he did.”
The Robinson family’s attorney, Dennis Sweet, said that he expects the case to be “one place where it looks like we’re trying to get some justice for African-Americans who were brutally beaten by police officers,” The New York Times reported.
All three of the officers involved in Robinson’s arrest are black.