Trooper Who Rammed Car Into Suspect Charged With Murder

Det. Sgt. Brian Keely, 50, faces second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2024 1:50 PM CDT
Trooper Who Drove Into Fleeing Suspect Charged With Murder
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is shown in this file photo.   (Al Goldis/Detroit News via AP)

A Michigan State Police trooper has been charged with murder in the April death of a 25-year-old man whom he struck with an unmarked squad car during a police chase. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday said Det. Sgt. Brian Keely, 50, would be charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Samuel Sterling. "Det. Sgt. Keely's actions that day were legally, grossly negligent and created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm, which could have otherwise been prevented," Nessel said. If convicted, the charges carry sentences of up to life and 15 years, respectively.

Keely and a state police fugitive task force had been trying to arrest Sterling, "a probation absconder who was wanted on several felony warrants," per NBC News, on April 17. He was sighted at a gas station outside of Grand Rapids and fled. Sterling was pursued by officers in cars and on foot "when the unmarked vehicle D/Sgt Keely was driving turned and struck Sterling in a nearby fast-food restaurant parking lot," per the attorney general's office. Body camera footage shows an injured Sterling calling out in pain. He died hours later, with his death certificate citing "multiple blunt force injuries," reports WOOD-TV.

A lawyer for Sterling's family told WOOD that Keely "clearly used a police car as a deadly weapon, knowing full well that Samuel was right there, and by steering into him, by going up and over a curb ... to try to cut him off, he knew that he certainly could hit him." "Some would say he intentionally hit him, which it looks like to me on the film, on the video," Ven Johnson added.

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A lawyer for Keely described the trooper as a religious man who was "broken-hearted" for Sterling's family. He characterized the charges as such: "It is unfortunate that in this time of political correctness, Michigan's attorney general has chosen to ignore the facts of this incident and rely on political pressure." Further, the "accident could have also been avoided if Mr. Sterling would have simply complied with the commands of the detectives." (More Michigan stories.)

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