djr-2021-09-19-news-keeton-shooting-arp8 (copy)

The trailer behind this gate, shown here in September 2021, was where Ricky Keeton lived in October 2015 when Monroe County sheriff's deputies shot and killed Keeton while serving a no-knock search warrant. Eric Sloan, the former narcotics deputy who helped lead that raid, has faced repeated allegations of corruption and misconduct over his years in law enforcement. 

ABERDEEN • The former narcotics deputy who helped lead the no-knock raid that resulted in the 2015 shooting death of Ricky Keeton has faced repeated allegations of corruption and misconduct.

Eric Sloan was head of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office narcotics unit at the time of the deadly Keeton raid, which occurred following what Sloan claimed had been a year-long investigation.

»Read previously in the UNDER FIRE series:

A federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by three of Keeton’s daughters names Monroe County and Sloan personally as defendants. Federal courts have denied Sloan qualified immunity privileges in that litigation, a legal doctrine that shields public employees from many types of claims in civil court.

At the time of the no-knock search at Keeton’s trailer home on Sizemore Road, Sloan was under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation after a woman made allegations that Sloan tried to extort her into stealing illicit cash for him. She also made an accusation that he sexually harassed her.

That allegation is not the only misconduct claim lodged against Sloan during his employment with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office from 2004 until December 2015.

Monroe County’s litigation insurance provider settled two federal lawsuits involving allegations of misconduct against Sloan — allegations that included false arrest, racist actions and theft.

The Daily Journal examined sworn depositions and other public documents related to three distinct claims of wrongdoing made against Sloan. An out-of-court settlement is not an admission of guilt, and Sloan has under oath denied the serious misconduct claims made against him.

Burglary suspect alleged extortion, other wrongdoing by former deputy

Stephanie Herring accused Sloan of trying to entangle her in an extortion scheme only months before the deadly no-knock raid at Keeton’s home.

Herring detailed her allegations in written statements provided to law enforcement authorities and in a sworn deposition taken in the course of a civil lawsuit.

In those statements and testimony, Herring claims her involvement with Sloan began after approximately $235,000 in cash was stolen from a woman for whom Herring worked as a house-cleaner and babysitter.

In August 2015, as Herring tells it, Sloan and others with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office came to Herring’s home and questioned her about the burglary. Monroe County law enforcement suspected that Herring played a role in the crime.

Herring says Sloan came back alone later that night in an unmarked car. He told her that if she knew who was responsible for the theft and could get $10,000 for him, he would make sure Herring faced no criminal charges connected to the burglary. He told her he planned to use the money to take his family to Disney World, she testified.

“He just said he — that’s what he wanted to do,” Herring said in a deposition. “He wasn’t going to be stingy with money. All he wanted was $10,000, and they could spare that out of $250,000.”

Herring also claimed that Sloan exposed herself to him while the pair were riding in a vehicle during this period of time. He allegedly pressured her to give him oral sex, which she said did not do.

“He told me to get out or put out,” Herring said in a deposition. “I got out of the vehicle, and then he started laughing and was like, ‘I’m just playing.’”

Herring testified she was unable to obtain any of the cash. Instead, she reportedly gave Sloan an address where she believed $80,000 of the money could be found. Sloan was shot just hours after Herring says she gave him the address.

Sloan reported being shot around 3 a.m. while detaining a red motorcycle for speeding on Highway 45A near Chapel Grove Road, according to written reports of the incident. A bulletproof vest saved him from serious injury, but he was on leave from work for a time after the incident.

In his own deposition, Sloan admitted to trying to develop Herring as a confidential informant but denied attempting to extort money from her. He also denied seeking sex from her.

Herring was indicted in March 2016 for an alleged role in the burglary and is scheduled to go to trial next month in Monroe County Circuit Court.

Law enforcement investigated Herring's claims about Sloan but hit roadblocks

Sloan aside, other law enforcement figures continued to question Herring about her alleged involvement in the burglary. During one of these interviews, in late August 2015, Herring lodged the above allegations about Sloan. The allegations were relayed to Curtis Knight, who was at the time and remains chief deputy of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Knight, in turn, notified the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.

MBI asked Herring to submit to a polygraph exam, which she did. Polygraph results are almost never admissible as evidence in court, but Herring’s examiner offered the view that she was telling the truth.

Knight testified in a deposition that he gave Herring a device to record any future phone calls with Sloan in an effort to obtain evidence that might incriminate him.

Herring recorded one conversation with Sloan. MBI found the recording not to be incriminating.

But, according to Knight, Herring may have inadvertently compromised the investigation.

“Unfortunately, just a day or two later, apparently, she tells one of her friends, who was a (confidential informant) of Eric’s, and of course, he tells Eric that we were investigating him,” Knight said.

Sloan testified that he learned of the investigation through talk at the sheriff’s department.

“We work at the sheriff’s department,” Sloan said. “Everybody talks about everything.”

Knight said in his deposition that he attempted to continue the investigation into Sloan and asked the deputy to take a polygraph exam. After speaking with an attorney, Sloan then offered his resignation, Knight testified.

Sloan said he resigned because the job was putting too much strain on his family.

In litigation, woman claimed wrongful arrest, racial slur dating from 2013

Herring’s allegations publicly surfaced as part of a sprawling lawsuit filed in January 2015 in federal court by an Amory woman.

The plaintiff in that lawsuit, Cynthia Verdise Fuller, accused Sloan of falsely arresting her during a 2013 incident and of using abusive and racist language against her.

Fuller acknowledges an “off and on” relationship with a man named Unseld Parks over a course of years. As of May 2013, the pair were reportedly separated and not in a relationship, but Fuller learned that law enforcement was pursuing Parks, so she went to his home. She did not have a key to the home and sat on the porch to wait for Parks, according to court records.

Sloan and another officer then arrived and found Fuller sitting on the porch. In her legal complaint, Fuller alleges that she and Sloan became engaged in a verbal altercation during which he used a racial epithet to describe her, calling her an “ignorant n----r.”

In court filings, defendants allege that Sloan never used any racial slur and further claim that Fuller gave Sloan reason to believe she lived at the home with Parks and also kept personal belongings there.

Officers ultimately searched the home and found marijuana and a firearm, at which point they arrested Fuller.

The lawsuit further alleges that Parks told officers the drugs belonged only to him. A written statement signed by Parks and dated March 30, 2013, supports this claim.

But in an affidavit signed by Sloan and dated March 31, 2013, Sloan charged Fuller of possessing drugs in connection with the search at the home where Parks lived. Defendants note that Parks' written statement addressed neither ownership of the gun nor the drug paraphernalia that was found. Defendants added that drugs were allegedly found among personal belongings Fuller had kept at the house, creating ambiguity about the ownership of the drugs.

Sloan, as alleged by the lawsuit, also told Parks to stop the “black b---h” from suing him.

Parks and Fuller were both indicted on drug charges, and Fuller for possession of a firearm as a felon.

The district attorney’s office ultimately did prosecute the case against Sloan.

After discovery occurred and defendants had requested summary judgment from the state, the parties settled the civil lawsuit out of court in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.

2012 lawsuit alleged Sloan stole $1,000 from stranded motorist

Roger Woods, a Lee County man, also sued Monroe County over an incident involving Sloan. The lawsuit claimed that in 2009, Woods was stopped by the side of Highway 45 with car problems.

Sloan allegedly stopped, asked Woods to exit his vehicle, and then proceeded to search a wallet belonging to Woods. The wallet contained $1,222 in cash, which Woods said came from an insurance settlement.

Sloan allegedly pocketed the cash.

In court documents, Monroe County admitted that Sloan searched Woods and asked him to turn over a wallet, but denied that Sloan stole any money.

The parties settled before discovery, meaning that no sworn testimony was ever taken about the alleged wrongdoing.

Sloan linked to questions about handling of evidence after Keeton shooting

Even as Sloan has faced these kind of misconduct allegations, questions have been raised about the integrity of key pieces of evidence from the scene of Keeton’s shooting.

Deputies were serving a warrant authorizing them to look for drugs. Interview transcripts show that only hours after the shooting, Keeton’s girlfriend, Wanda Stegall, told MBI investigators that law enforcement would find drugs in the trailer, suggesting it was probably only a small amount of around five or six grams.

IN THE SERIES:

Ricky Keeton shooting in Monroe County raises questions about no-knock warrants
Widespread use of no-knock search warrants in Monroe County raises constitutional questions

“It’s in a little green box in the bedroom” Stegall said, according to a transcript prepared from the recorded audio.

However, when deputy Tony Coxey returned a list of items taken under the search warrant’s authority, no drugs were listed. Only numerous items taken for asset forfeiture — including cars, televisions and a safe — were listed.

But then, in January 2016, more than two months after Keeton’s death, Coxey sent the Columbus crime lab a little more than 7 ounces of a substance allegedly taken from Keeton’s trailer. Lab testing showed the substance to be meth.

Coxey and Sloan also took initial custody of a game camera that was positioned such that it should have snapped still photographs of the back of Keeton’s trailer, where deputies were breaching the residence when they shot him.

MBI eventually took custody of the camera from the sheriff’s office, but an MBI officer testified under oath that it appeared to him something had been placed over the camera during the raid or that photographs were later deleted from the camera’s memory.

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