Several bounty hunters in Tennessee who were facing murder charges for shooting and killing Jalen Johnson-Milan, a 24-year old Black man they had mistaken for someone else, were ultimately found not guilty after claiming they acted in self-defense.
In April 2017, the bounty hunters have allegedly set up a fake drug deal to catch William Ellis, a man who had skipped bail. However, they just confronted four men, including Johnson, who were inside a car at a Walmart parking lot. They started firing shots at the car when they attempted to drive away and continued shooting while chasing them.
Johnson was shot in the back and chest, killing him. The driver of the car was also shot in the neck but survived.
The 7 bounty hunters, Jonathan Schnepp Jr., Kenneth Chiasson, William Byles II, Antwon Keesee, Roger West Jr., Joshua Young, and Prentice Williams, initially faced 16 charges, including first-degree murder, attempted second degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, attempted especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, employing firearms in commission of dangerous felony, and felony reckless endangerment.
Two of them, Schnepp Jr. and Chiasson, entered an open plea in exchange for their testimony. The charges against them were dropped.
The men claimed that they did not know that the man they were searching wasn’t in the vehicle and that they acted in self-defense when they saw someone in the car with a gun. But when the police said no gun was found in the car, they allegedly changed their statement and said that the car sped off and hit some of them.
After three weeks of testimony from 50 witnesses and over 200 pieces of evidence, the court decided the 7 bounty hunters were not guilty on all counts, except for the reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon in which Joshua Young was convicted.
Johnson’s lawyers were disappointed in the outcome of the case. Meanwhile, the family members of the defendants were relieved.
“I feel relieved. I feel blessed,” said Betty Keesee, the grandmother of Antwon Keesee and William Byles. “I’m so thankful, because I knew they were good boys. Thank god.”