Mississippi drops charges against white ex-officer in black man's 2015 shooting death, concludes self-defense

Mississippi prosecutors announced last week that manslaughter charges against a white former police officer in the 2015 deadly shooting of a black man have been dropped, concluding that he had acted in self-defense.

Canyon Boykin pleaded not guilty in 2016 after being indicted in the death of Ricky Ball. The killing sparked protests in 2015 in Columbus, a mostly black city of 23,000 in northeastern Mississippi.

In a brief statement Thursday, Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch said her office reviewed the case and determined Boykin acted in self-defense.

A file image of former police officer Canyon Boykin, center, being led from the Lowndes County Courthouse in handcuffs while people applauded in Columbus, Miss. 

A file image of former police officer Canyon Boykin, center, being led from the Lowndes County Courthouse in handcuffs while people applauded in Columbus, Miss.  (The Commercial Dispatch via AP)

District Attorney Scott Colom said Fitch did not consult him before her office announced it was dropping the charge against Boykin.

Colom, a Democrat, said Friday he would have recommended the attorney general not dismiss the charge now, since Boykin has been out of jail on bond. Colom cited riots in Minnesota over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for minutes, along with public outrage over the deaths of several other African Americans killed by white law enforcement officers or U.S. citizens.

Boykin was working for the Columbus Police Department when Ball, 26, was shot to death after a traffic stop. Ball was a passenger and ran from the vehicle after it was stopped, according to Boykin. The officer said he fired his weapon while chasing Ball because Ball appeared to point a gun at him. A handgun turned up near Ball's body. Ball's family disputed whether Boykin had cause to shoot.

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Colom said Friday he's not critical of Fitch's decision to dismiss the case, but said more evidence for the decision needed to be released to the public.

"People don't even know what the reason is that you dismissed the case," he said. "They don't get a chance to examine the evidence for themselves, they don't get a chance to make their own decision about whether this was an independent judgment, whether it was based on the facts of the law."

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Boykin's attorney, Jim Waide, said in a statement Thursday that Boykin acted in self-defense.

"It's a tragedy when for anyone to die," Waide said. "Canyon was doing what he was sent to do and had to defend himself."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.