MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Attorneys and supporters of a man who was killed by another inmate inside a Shelby County courthouse say they blame a security failure by the sheriff’s office for his death.
Deion Byrd, 25, was stabbed to death by another inmate outside of a courtroom in the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center on October 26.
Attorney Ben Crump, along with family members, attorneys and a retired local judge, said in a press conference Friday that Sheriff Floyd Bonner should be accountable.
“If there is supposed to be one place that is supposed to be safe and secure, that is the house of justice, the courthouse,” Crump said. “We have to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other citizen.”
Byrd’s death has led many, including his family, to question the safety protocols put in place at 201 Poplar.
Crump said the inmate somehow got a sharp metal object through security. He called that “gross negligence” on the part of the sheriff’s office.
Attorney Brice Timmons called the jail at 201 Poplar, which is attached to the criminal courthouse, one of the most violent places in the country.
“We have a jail that’s more dangerous than Rikers Island – one of the most violent places in the country. Why? I want [Bonner] to answer that question, but he won’t because he is a coward,” said Timmons. “(Bonner) has managed to create a jail so dangerous that it now spills into the courtroom.”
Court documents state Byrd, was handcuffed and waiting to be escorted back into jail when he saw Clay in a holding cell.
Byrd reportedly accused Clay of breaking into his home. Clay denied the accusation and Byrd allegedly spit in his face.
Clay then told him, “I’m going to kill you now,” and chased him with a sharpened piece of metal. Reports state he stabbed Byrd in the neck at least once and threw the knife on the floor.
A deputy stepped into the holding area and saw Byrd lying on the floor bleeding from his neck. Clay reportedly got on his knees and put his hands behind his head after seeing the deputy.
Deion Byrd’s mother, Laquita Byrd says one week and one day after the deadly stabbing and still, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner remains silent.
“Didn’t nobody even call to tell us. His attorney called. They didn’t even have the decency to tell us what happened to him,” said Byrd.
The lawyers representing the Byrd family are calling on the Department of Justice to return in order to launch a federal investigation. That could be part of the solution to a problem they say is plaguing the criminal Justice center.
“With God’s help and grace, we might get a measure of justice,” said Crump.
Crump — who held a press conference in Memphis on Thursday after one of the officers charged in Tyre Nichols’ death pleaded guilty — is also currently representing the families of Nichols, Gershun Freeman, Jarveon Hudspeth, and Courtney Ross, Jr.
Crump released a statement Thursday afternoon:
“Deion Byrd’s family and countless others have come to learn that their loved ones are anything but safe at 201 Poplar. Being in jail is not a death sentence, but at 201 Poplar, nobody’s life is guaranteed. Drastic and immediate changes must be made so that nobody else’s son has to die unjustly, like so many there have.”
This story will be updated.