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Monday, June 24, 2024

Michigan Trooper Charged with Murder in Fatal Vehicle Collision with Fleeing Man

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged Detective Sgt. Brian Keely, a state trooper, with murder, citing “gross negligence” in the fatal collision that killed Samuel Sterling last month in suburban Grand Rapids. The incident has sparked significant public outrage and renewed calls for police accountability.

The incident occurred on April 17 outside a Burger King restaurant in Kentwood, a suburb of Grand Rapids. Sergeant Keely was in an unmarked police SUV while several officers were pursuing Mr. Sterling, who was wanted on unspecified warrants. Video footage from dash and body cameras showed that as officers chased Mr. Sterling on foot, Sergeant Keely drove his SUV into Mr. Sterling, pinning him against the restaurant wall.

The release of police video footage has become increasingly common over the past decade, driven by public demand for greater transparency in law enforcement. This footage has led to more frequent criminal charges against officers involved in on-duty killings, although convictions remain rare. The video of Mr. Sterling’s death shocked many in Michigan, prompting strong reactions from state officials.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, condemned the incident, calling Mr. Sterling’s death “unacceptable.” Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist echoed her sentiments, demanding “answers, accountability, and justice” and expressing empathy for the community’s pain.

Attorney General Nessel charged Sergeant Keely, 50, with second-degree murder, a charge that can result in up to life imprisonment. An alternate charge of involuntary manslaughter, carrying a potential 15-year sentence, was also filed. No arraignment date has been set.

Mr. Sterling’s death has amplified tensions in the Grand Rapids area, which is still reeling from another high-profile case involving police use of deadly force. Officer Christopher Schurr, who was fired from the Grand Rapids Police Department, is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge for the 2022 shooting death of Patrick Lyoya, a Black man like Mr. Sterling. Schurr has denied any wrongdoing.

The exact nature of the warrants for Mr. Sterling’s arrest has not been disclosed by state officials. However, the community’s response to his death has been vocal and impassioned.

Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights attorney representing the families of both Mr. Sterling and Mr. Lyoya, has been at the forefront of the call for justice. At a news conference last month, Crump emphasized the need for accountability in Mr. Sterling’s death.

The charges against Sergeant Keely represent a significant step in the pursuit of justice for Mr. Sterling’s family and the broader community, who continue to seek transparency and accountability in law enforcement practices. As the case progresses, it will undoubtedly be closely watched, reflecting the heightened scrutiny of police actions and the demand for reform in how officers engage with the public.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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