A Tennessee jury has acquitted five bounty hunters accused of gunning down an unarmed Black father of three in a case of mistaken identity.
The verdict, handed down last Thursday, came after nearly three weeks of testimony, 50 witnesses, and over five hours of deliberations in the case of slain man Jalen Milan, the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reported. Milan, 24, was shot and killed when police said bounty hunters opened fire on the wrong vehicle while looking for another man on April 23, 2017.
Seven bounty hunters and bondsmen faced charges in the case, including first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and kidnapping, among other offenses. Two took pleas deals in exchange for their testimony ahead of trial, while the remaining five — William Byles II, 32; Antwon Keese, 33, Roger West Jr., 32; Joshua Young, 28; and Prentice Williams — all stood trial.
Milan was sitting passenger in a car with three other men in the parking lot of a Walmart Neighborhood Market when the fatal encounter unfolded. As reported by the Leaf–Chronicle, “prosecutors made the case that the bounty hunters and bondsmen worked together to have an informant set up a drug deal in order to catch a Mr. William Ellis, who’d jumped bond. Instead, they wound up confronting four men, including Milan, … and opened fire when the victims attempted to drive away.”
A lawsuit alleges the suspects rushed toward the car Milan was in with their guns drawn and started smashing the windows “suddenly and without any warning.” That’s when the driver sped off, fearing they were being attacked by gang members, according to the complaint.
As the victims drove away, the bounty hunters fired several shots at their vehicle, striking Milan, 24, in his chest and back. He would eventually die from his injuries.
Prosecutors said the suspects then chased then four men for several miles in their car, only to realize the person they were looking for was not in the car after it was stopped by police.
Despite this, the five bounty hunters were found not guilty on all charges, with the exception of one charge against Young, 28, who was convicted of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, according to the newspaper.
Family members of the defendants were relieved at news of Thursday’s verdict.
“I feel blessed,” said a tearful Betty Keesee, the grandmother of Antwon Keesee and William Byles. “I’m so thankful, because I knew they were good boys. Thank god.”
Defense attorneys for the suspects claim the bounty hunters acted in self-defense as the driver fled the scene, striking multiple bounty hunters in the process. They also alleged the bounty hunters “clearly” saw someone inside the car with a gun, who they said fired at them first.
None of the victims were armed, however, nor were they wanted on outstanding charges.
Lead prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Daniel Brollier expressed disappointment with the outcome of the case.
“I am obviously very disappointed with the verdicts,” Brollier told the Leaf-Chronicle.
According to FOX 17, relatives of Milan remember him as a class clown, a life of the party person who was a lovable guy and a great father to his three children.
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