SAVANNAH, Ga. – A Georgia police chief said Thursday that officers acted professionally and appropriately when they fatally shot a 20-year-old man in January, and he urged the public to review all the evidence and witness statements in the case.
Savannah Police Chief Mark Revenew's comments came a day after a grand jury issued a report determining that police were justified in shooting Ricky Boyd as they sought to arrest him on a felony murder warrant. His family insists he was unarmed when he was killed outside his house on Jan. 23. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said he was holding a BB pistol that appeared to be a real gun.
Revenew told reporters Thursday that he has had to remain quiet as the case was investigated and presented to the grand jury. Since the shooting, he said, "the public has been subjected to a one-sided, calculated campaign of misinformation."
"We encourage everyone, including the media, to objectively review the evidence and witness statements in their entirety," he said. "Please do not receive pieces of information taken out of context to further an agenda or promote divisiveness within our community."
But the Boyd family's lawyer, Will Claiborne, expressed disappointment in the grand jury's findings and slammed authorities' handling of information in the case. He said he's encouraged to hear that a federal investigation is planned.
Claiborne said at a news conference Thursday that there needs to be a clear policy governing the release of information about police-involved shootings. He said he has made at least five requests for information and still hadn't received anything.
"(R)eleasing information to the news media in the dark of night doesn't build up community trust," Claiborne said, according to a transcript of the news conference. "Failing to give that information to the victim's family until after it's given to the media doesn't build up community trust."
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap, who presented the case to the grand jury, said the Justice Department has told her it plans to look at the case. She said she welcomes "a second set of eyes" after the grand jury decided the evidence didn't support pursuing criminal charges against the officers.
The nine-page grand jury report says eight Savannah police officers and deputy U.S. Marshals were justified in believing they were in danger of being shot after Boyd emerged from his home and refused orders to raise his hands.
"A short time later, he quickly removed his hands from his pocket area holding a BB gun and assumed a shooter's two-handed stance while pointing the BB gun in the directions" of officers, the report said.
One officer's body camera captured the shooting. The grand jury said it shows Boyd with an object in his hands, but isn't clear enough to identify the object as a gun.
Boyd's mother, Jameillah Smiley, and other family members declined to testify before the grand jury. Smiley told reporters she didn't trust the district attorney, and believes authorities and prosecutors have been "covering up" for the officers who shot her son.
The Boyd family's lawyers have questioned whether he really held the BB pistol, saying a neighbor's photo showed it more than 40 feet from where he was shot. The grand jury said officers were afraid to render first aid to Boyd with the gun next to him, so an officer picked it up, carried it across the yard and dropped it next to a tree, where it was collected for evidence.
The grand jury report says civilian witnesses also reported seeing Boyd raise a gun at officers, and that one of Boyd's family members told the GBI that she "heard him fire his gun first; that Ricky Boyd's gun fire sounded like a BB gun and not like a real gun; the police did not fire at Ricky Boyd until after Ricky Boyd fired the first shot."
Another unnamed relative, however, told the GBI that Boyd was simply holding his hands together as if he had a gun.
One Savannah officer was wounded. Investigators determined he was hit by bullets fired by a marshal that ricocheted off Boyd's house, the report said.
The grand jury said officers had come to Boyd's home to arrest him on a felony murder charge in the slaying of a 24-year-old man two days earlier.
Brumback reported from Atlanta.