A Chatham County Grand Jury unanimously decided law enforcement officers involved in the fatal shooting of Ricky Boyd will not be charged.
After three days of deliberation, the grand jury made the decision on Wednesday that the officers reacted reasonably in the incident.
The grand jurors were presented with evidence including photographs, witness testimony and the highly controversial police body camera video of the fatal shooting.
The 20-year-old was shot outside of his grandmother’s home in Savannah on January 23, 2018, after officers with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Marshal Task Force arrived to serve an arrest warrant to Boyd.
In the grand jury report, evidence from Savannah police investigators shows that a family member of Boyd’s was the person who shot and killed Whitfield.
The shooting happened during an apparent drug deal. Investigators say while Boyd didn’t fire the fatal shot, he was in the car when shots were fired.
During the warrant service, officials claim Boyd had a firearm when he exited the home which sparked the deadly gunfire.
According to the grand jurors, the evidence showed a tragic shooting, but one within the law.
“When he walked out, he had his hands in his pockets. There were witnesses and law enforcement and neighbors who said they hear, ‘take your hands out, take your hands out’ and he didn’t,” said District Attorney Meg Heap. “He pulled a gun, turned to the left and fired.”
Slow motion video, while very dark, seems to support that. The grand jury looked frame by frame at the body camera video. You can see Boyd’s hands go up in a firing position, a version his own grandmother seemed to verify on the scene after the shooting.
“Why didn’t he put his hands up?” said Mattie Wallace, Boyd’s grandmother. “He acted like he had a gun. He came out like he had a gun. … I’m not mad at the officers, they had a job to do. I don’t know why my grandson wanted to die.”
Another family member also added to that evidence in an interview with police later.
“When he came outside, I heard him shoot first,” said the family member. “I heard it go off because that’s when they started shooting at him. They wouldn’t shoot at him first. They was telling him to hold his hands up.”
As for the gun he was carrying when he was shot? It was a BB gun. The family in interviews and a search of the home verified he had BB guns and ammunition in his room.
The Boyd family’s attorney, Will Claiborne, in April released a video questioning the circumstances of the gun’s placement.
One of the officers admitted he carried that gun away from the body so no one else — no other suspect who could be inside the house — could use it.
According to the grand jury, officers were reluctant to approach Boyd after he was shot because the gun he was holding was near his body.
“Officers were unaware if Ricky Boyd was still a threat,” the summary reads.
But the grand jury determined one officer, Sgt. Samuel Hunt, was able to determine he could retrieve and secure the weapon located next to Boyd’s body.
“He, therefore, approached Ricky Boyd, picked up the weapon, and retreated with the weapon back to the pine tree located in front of 111 Marian Circle where he continued to use the tree as a cover,” the summary states.
The officer then laid the weapon on the ground and emergency responders moved in to render medical aid on Boyd.
“Furthermore, the grand jury found no evidence to suggest that the BB pistol recovered by SGT Hunt was moved in a suspicious manner to any place whatsoever,” the statement reads.
The grand jury says it is reasonable that officers perceived the BB gun as a real firearm, and found no evidence suggesting it was planted by law enforcement or civilians.
Boyd’s case has gained national attention over the past few months. His mother appeared on PBS to speak about the shooting and Rev. Al Sharpton and Sen. Lester Jackson have weighed in on the case.
Much of the focus has surrounded the body camera video. As Boyd’s mother claimed, the footage showed her son “coming out with his hands out and he was immediately shot.”
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap praised the grand jury for taking their time and making their own best decision; not listening to ‘gossip.’
“That’s how it should be done. You shouldn’t be convicted by gossip. I think it should be done in a court of law. If there is a fact here, it better be supported. You better have some way to prove it.
She offered strong words for Boyd’s family and their attorney, who attacked her office and the entire investigation.
“I didn’t need the vindication because when I read the file I knew it was there. What really saddens me is it’s a travesty on the criminal justice system,” said D.A. Heap. “It is reckless to go out and say things and to do things without knowing all the facts.”
Following the grand jury’s decision on Wednesday, Claiborne released the following statement on behalf of Boyd’s family:
We are saddened but not surprised by today’s decision.
We have said from day one that Ricky never murdered anyone. This presentment makes that clear. We are heartbroken to learn that law enforcement knew Ricky was not a murderer when they knocked on the door of the family home on Jan. 23rd, and yet still took his life. That we still do not know who is responsible for killing him — or for shooting their fellow Savannah Police officer – is shocking and appalling.
The shooting of unarmed black men is a national disgrace. We will not stop until the system is reformed. We will not stop until we secure justice for this family.
In the coming months, the family will be getting the federal investigation they hoped for.
D.A. Heap contacted the Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 10 and requested a federal investigation into the shooting due to the number of U.S. Marshals involved in the incident.
The DOJ responded with a letter on Friday, May 18, stating the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with the shooting.
“I welcome a second review by the Department of Justice,” said Heap in a statement. “The Chatham County Grand Jury was looking into violations of Georgia State law. The Department of Justice will be looking into any violation of Federal law.”
Claiborne and Boyd’s mother, Jameillah Smiley, are set to hold a press conference Thursday at 11:00 a.m. on the grand jury’s decision.
News 3 will continue to follow this story.