WARNING: This video may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The District Attorney’s Office in Nashville released video showing the moments leading up to the death of an inmate at the Shelby County Jail in Memphis last October.
Gershun Freeman was being held on charges of kidnapping and threatening his ex-girlfriend when he died in police custody.
The medical examiner ruled the 33-year-old’s death a homicide. A report by the medical examiner said Freeman was restrained by jailers and subsequently went into cardiac arrest.
The surveillance video inside 201 Poplar does not have sound, but what we see is very telling, according to attorney Jake Brown who is representing Gershun Freeman’s family in a civil suit.
“This family had to watch their son subjected to what he was subjected to on camera,” Brown said.
The video shows Freeman naked and lunging out of the cell when the cell door opens. One jailer appears to respond with pepper spray. The second jailer drops the meal and starts punching Freeman.
“The deputy in the closest to the camera in the frame appears to already have the pepper spray, the chemical agent in his hand before the door is opened,” Brown said.
On the left side, you can see four other jailers joining in.
Freeman started crawling away while other jailers flooded the narrow hallway and continued hitting him. It appears they hit Freeman with a metal object.
Freeman appears to be under control and the jailers, who appeared to be impacted by the pepper spray, started to retreat.
“The fact that those officers felt comfortable doing that in front of other officers clearly shows there is a problem in the culture of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department,” Brown said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began looking into his death in October at the request of Shelby County District Attorney General Steve Mulroy.
The Shelby County DA’s office has not said why the video was released by the DA’s office in Nashville or how they are involved in the investigation.
Freeman’s family and their attorneys are urging the Justice Department to take a closer look at the case.
Brown has been working with attorneys Ben Crump and Brice Timmons on this case.
Crump and Timmons said in a joint statement that Freeman’s death is another example of police brutality in Memphis.
“The death of Gershun Freeman is yet another shocking example of police brutality in the Memphis and Shelby County criminal justice systems. The newly released footage is visual evidence that at least 10 officers brutalized and beat Gershun to death, when he was naked and clearly suffering from a mental health crisis. Gershun’s family thanks District Attorney Glenn Funk’s office for their transparency in this, and we are confident that their office will bring these officers to justice on the criminal side.”
We reached out to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for comment, since they are the agency that oversees the jail. They released the following statement:
“According to the Medical Examiner, Mr. Gershun Freeman suffered from psychosis and cardiovascular disease and died of a heart attack while being restrained. It is unfortunate that parts of the video are being shown out of context because the full video does show the erratic and violent behavior that led to the need to restrain Mr. Freeman. These corrections officers deserve a fair review of this case, and I will wait for additional information from the TBI and the investigating DA before taking further administrative action.”