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Michigan trooper charged with murder in death of man hit by unmarked car

Michigan State Police shoulder patch
(Courtesy of the Michigan State Police)
  • Samuel Sterling died after being struck by an unmarked Michigan State Police car in Kentwood on April 17
  • Attorney General Dana Nessel has charged detective sergeant Brian Keely with second-degree murder
  • Nessel filed an alternative charge of involuntary manslaughter

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed murder charges against a Michigan State Police trooper Tuesday in the death of Samuel Sterling, a 25-year-old from Grand Rapids who died after being struck by an unmarked state police car in Kentwood on April 17. 

Detective Sergeant Brian Keely, 50, of Grand Rapids faces one count of second-degree murder and an alternative count of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he could face a life sentence on the murder charge or 15 years in prison on the manslaughter charge.


The news came after the state police announced on May 10 that it had completed its investigation into the incident and had turned the matter over to Nessel. The state police also released video of the incident to the public that day, “in the interest of transparency.” (Editor’s note: The video is graphic and could be disturbing to some viewers.) The state police did not name Keely at the time but said the officer involved in the incident had been suspended without pay.

Related: Michigan State Police releases video of a man getting hit by an unmarked car

In a YouTube video Tuesday announcing the charges, Nessel said her office had reviewed body cam footage and surveillance footage from nearby businesses, as well as multiple police reports and had found that Keely’s actions were “legally grossly negligent and created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm, which could have otherwise been prevented.”  

Keely, who was part of a state police fugitive task force, is set be arraigned in a district court in Kentwood, according to a news release.

“Public integrity is a top priority for my department, and we remain committed to providing a thorough and just review and resolution in each case brought before us,” Nessel said in the release.

The state police has said it was conducting a fugitive arrest operation with other police departments in Kentwood and that officers were attempting to locate Sterling, who was "wanted on multiple warrants."  According to Nessel’s office, Sterling fled on foot when officers tried to bring him into custody. Troopers and other law enforcement officers gave chase, and, according to Nessel’s office, the vehicle Keely was driving turned and struck Sterling in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. 

After being struck by the vehicle, Sterling was taken to the hospital, where he later died. 

Several top state government officials released statements after state police released the video this month, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who called Sterling’s death “unacceptable” and said her “heart is with his family and the Grand Rapids community.”

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