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Video released in deadly altercation at 201 Poplar which led to the death of Gershun Freeman

The video shows multiple correctional officers at the Shelby County Jail were involved in the deadly beating.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The jail surveillance video showing the moments which led to the death of Gershun Freeman at the Shelby County Jail in October 2022 were released Thursday by the Nashville District Attorney's Office.

The video shows multiple correctional officers were involved in the deadly beating of Freeman, whose official cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest caused by complications from a physical altercation.

Freeman is shown lunging at one correctional officer (C.O.) after he opened his jail cell to deliver food. That C.O. sprayed pepper spray at Freeman while another C.O. took Freeman to the ground. 

You can watch the full, unedited video below. WARNING: This video is extremely graphic and includes depictions of violence and nudity. Viewer discretion is advised.

As many as 10 C.O.'s flood into the hall where the scuffle ensues, and several C.O.'s are shown having to be restrained by others from joining the fight. 

Eventually, Freeman gets away, and a short chase happens up an escalator before a correctional officer backs him into a wall and wrestles him onto the ground.

Several guards restrain Freeman on the ground, at least one kneeling on his back, for about four minutes until Freeman's body stops moving. 

It then takes another three minutes for medical personnel to reach Freeman.

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office referred to an earlier statement they made when they asked the Nashville D.A.'s office to inspect the case: 

"Shortly after learning of the death of Mr. Freeman, D.A. Steve Mulroy called in Nashville D.A. Glenn Funk's office, as an independent prosecutor to investigate the case. We are confident in D.A. Funk and his team to provide a thorough investigation."

Attorney Ben Crump, representing Freeman's family, released a statement following the video release:

“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.”

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr., whose office operates the jail, 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. This is still an open and active investigation."

An autopsy shows Gershun Freeman had multiple bruises and deep cuts when he died, and a coroner ruled his death a homicide. 

"They killed my boy," George Burks, Gershun’s father, said. "My boy didn’t deserve that."  

There have long been calls for reform at 201 Poplar. Local organization Just City often leads the charge.

"In a correctional facility, deaths should be very rare if it’s run correctly — if it’s staffed correctly," Just City executive director Josh Spickler said. 

According to the most recent data shared by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, in 2020; 9 people died while in their custody, 10 died in 2021 and 11 died in 2022 (as of October of that year). This number includes Freeman.

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