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Grand jury clears police in Boyd shooting, but questions remain

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A Chatham County grand jury’s decision last week not to charge Savannah Police in the shooting death of Ricky Boyd brought vindication to an embattled new police chief, and also brought vows to continue the fight from Boyd’s family.

“Between the tragic events of Jan. 23 and the decision, the public has been subjected to a one-sided, calculated campaign of misinformation,” said Savannah Police Chief Mark Revenew in a statement shortly after the grand jury’s decision.

“The evidence and independent witnesses’ statements, which have been presented to the grand jury and the media, undercuts and disproves these allegations.”

Boyd’s mother Jameillah Smiley.
  • Boyd’s mother Jameillah Smiley.

The incident happened literally Revenew’s first day on the job as then-interim Savannah Police Chief.

Dark and grainy bodycam footage, finally released to the public after the grand jury’s decision, appears to show Boyd gesturing in a threatening manner as he exits the house on Marian Circle where police had come to serve a murder warrant on him for the killing of Balil Whitfield two days earlier.

Almost immediately, a hail of gunfire erupts and Boyd falls to the front porch. The bodycam footage came from a Savannah Police officer.

U.S. Marshals, also involved in the incident, typically don’t wear bodycams.

After initially saying Boyd fired on them with an actual firearm, police later changed their account to say that Boyd brandished a BB gun.

However, the Boyd family attorney, William Claiborne, said the BB gun was found almost 50 feet away from Boyd’s body.

During the incident, a Savannah Police officer received gunshot wounds. Police now say, after months of releasing no information, that the local officer was accidentally shot by one of the U.S. Marshals.

Police say, and the grand jury agreed, that the BB gun was moved by a police officer during the chaos.

A screengrab from the body camera footage.
  • A screengrab from the body camera footage.

“We have intentionally remained quiet throughout the course of this process in an effort to preserve its integrity. At each stage of the events leading up to, during and following this tragedy, we have neither interfered with nor attempted to influence the outcome. The public should have total confidence in the process and its result,” Chief Revenew said.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the investigation was turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), and from then to Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap, who impaneled the grand jury.

“The GBI, an independent state agency, has extensive experience investigating officer-involved shootings. When the evidence supports as much, they do not hesitate to arrest and prosecute police officers and other officials for unlawful conduct. There should be no question as to the GBI’s qualifications or impartiality,” said Chief Revenew.

“ We encourage everyone, including the media, to objectively review the evidence and witnesses’ statements in their entirety,” said Revenew in another jab at the press. “Please do not receive pieces or information taken out of context to further an agenda or promote divisiveness within our community.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicated it will review the case for possible civil rights violations.

“We welcome this and we will fully cooperate,” said Chief Revenew.

Boyd family attorney Claiborne says, “Ricky’s family takes some solace in the statement by the grand jury that a federal investigation has apparently been opened into this matter. They hope that is true. And they hope that investigation addresses some questions that remain unanswered.”

According to Claiborne, those unanswered questions include:

“Who shot Boyd and how many times was he shot?

“Who shot the officer that morning?

“Why don’t U.S. Marshals wear body cameras?

“Was the BB gun tested for finger prints? If not, why not?

“If Boyd was shot by eight officers, why is there no blood or DNA on the gun [according to Claiborne]?

“If an officer retrieved the gun from near Boyd, why didn’t he follow police protocol and secure it in his vehicle. Why lay the gun on the ground 43 feet away?

“Why hasn’t the actual killer of Balil Whitfield been arrested?

“And could the death at Ricky’s funeral have been avoided if the actual killer had been arrested?” Claiborne concludes.

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