TUPELO • The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ended legal wrangling related to the 2016 shooting death of Antwun “Ronnie” Shumpert at the hands of a Tupelo police officer.
After a federal judge in North Mississippi dismissed a wrongful death civil suit filed against the city of Tupelo and police officer Tyler Cook, Shumpert’s heirs appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which also ruled against the Shumpert case.
A further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by Shumpert family attorney Carlos Moore, of Grenada, was a last-ditch legal maneuver.
An attorney representing Cook lauded the court's decision and emphasized the number of agencies that have investigated the original incident.
"After over two years of investigations and adjudications by the MBI, the District Attorney’s Office of the First Circuit Court District, a Lee County Grand Jury, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi, the Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division, the FBI, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States of America, and a denial to further hear the case by the Supreme Court of the United States, we have a final and complete vindication for Officer Tyler Cook regarding the shooting of Antwun Ronnie Shumpert," said Jason Herring in a written statement. "Officer Tyler Cook thanks his friends, family and community for the outpouring of support during the last two and a half years, and for standing strong with him."
In a statement, Moore continued to show a combative stance and singled out for criticism the police officer who shot Shumpert.
“The family of Ronnie Shumpert is disappointed that the Supreme Court will not hear the case. However the family is pleased that they fought to the very end for justice,” Moore said. “Now that the case has ended the family asks for privacy as they attempt to put their fractured lives back together. Finally, the family continues to pray for the soul of Tyler Cook and for the grace to one day forgive him for needlessly killing Ronnie.”
Shumpert was pulled over by Tupelo police in 2016 after leaving a motel which was under surveillance at the time for drug activity. He fled the traffic stop and was eventually located by Cook, then a Tupelo K-9 handler.
Cook and his police dog found Shumpert hiding under the crawl space. Cook told investigators that he was attacked and pinned to the ground by Shumpert, who began to beat him.
In the course of the fight, Cook said he shot Shumpert after he feared he was going to lose consciousness.
There were no eyewitnesses to the incident other than Cook and Tupelo police officers were not yet wearing body cameras at the time.
In the early weeks after the shooting, Moore drew attention to the shooting with a series of press conferences, but he made several statements that were later shown to be false, including the claim that there was a significant delay in the call for an ambulance.
At the same time, City Hall struggled to respond to increasing public fervor. Mayor Jason Shelton at first declined to release much information about the incident and called the shooting “justified,” but then later released much more detail in interviews with the Daily Journal and a subsequent press conference.
After a local grand jury and federal law enforcement declined to press any criminal charges against Cook, the civil litigation ultimately narrowed around questions of whether Cook should have waited for backup before he attempted to engage with Shumpert.
Mayor Jason Shelton’s administration declined any comment on the Supreme Court’s action and the conclusion to legal action related to Shumpert’s death.
John Hill, an attorney retained by the city’s insurance firm to defend against the Shumpert claims, said he was not surprised by Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision.
“The Supreme Court accepts very few cases,” he said. “From the city’s perspective, we are obviously pleased with the result and glad the case is over.”