No indictment in teen's death - - Jackson, MS

No indictment in teen's death

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

KOSKIUSKO, MS (WLBT) - The chalk outline marking the spot on Highway 14 where 18-year-old Benjamin Russell's body came to rest on April 13th, 2009 is still visible. It's faded after a year, but his family members' anger over what they say happened that night is razor sharp.

Russell was driving Highway 14 around 1:20 that morning, swerved to avoid a deer and hit a tree. He called his dad, and someone else called the fire department to respond. Russell's brother, P.J. Land, says the fire truck hit the teen and killed him.

Land says the firefighters originally lied about what happened. "They tried to say he was ejected from the vehicle," he says.

But Land says the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation linked the fire truck to the accident.

"They said we're gonna test the truck, they did, these tire tracks are the only tire tracks that run over and killed him," Land says.

After our story in February, 11 months after the accident, District Attorney Doug Evans finally presented a case to the grand jury.

But no felony indictment was handed down in Russell's death.

"All of the people that were involved in trying to cover this up, hide it, I believe all of them should be held responsible," says a second brother, Josh Land.

"They're all in the wrong because they lied about it for two weeks," P.J. Land says.

3 On Your Side visited the Attala County Circuit Court Clerk to try to get documentation about the grand jury decision. But we were told they can't hand over any of that information.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Howie tells us he wishes he could clear up some of the misconceptions and miscommunications about this case, but because of the sensitivity of a grand jury proceeding, he can't talk about it for six months.

Howie would only tell us that no firefighters are facing a felony charge in Attala County stemming from Russell's death.

3 On Your Side did some digging and found this statute titled "Excusable Homicide" which states "The killing of any human being shall be excusable when committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means, with usual and ordinary caution."

Family members tell us only one firefighter, Mark Fisher, is facing a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving in regard to the accident. They plan to keep pressing.

"Justice for Ben. That's what we want," P.J. says.

Former State Representative Jamie Franks is an attorney for the family.  He's currently the head of the State Democratic Party.  He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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