Michigan State Police detective charged with second-degree murder in death of 25-year-old man

Family has hired Detroit Attorney Ven Johnson in

A Michigan State Police detective is facing second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed the charges Tuesday (May 28) in the police chase death of 25-year-old Samuel Sterling.

Nessel called 50-year-old Trooper Brian Keely legally and grossly negligent.

Sterling’s parents talked to Local 4 about the charges and their significant implications.

The case brings into focus the police use of deadly force and the outcry it brings.

However, it also raises questions by police unions about how far prosecutors like Nessel can go before their actions have a chilling effect on police in general.

The incident was captured on video on April 17 when a crime task force out looking for felons with warrants came across Sterling, a probation absconder putting air in a car tire.

Sterling ran, and officers gave chase.

Kelly, driving an unmarked MSP cruiser, drove up to and hit Sterling, briefly pinning him against the wall of a fast food restaurant.

Officers searched Sterling and cuffed him while he was slumped to the ground.

As for the second-degree murder charge, Sterling’s parents, Michael Sterling and Andrica Cage, said they couldn’t watch the video.

“I can’t watch it because it’s too graphic for me,” said Michael. “I’m glad they charged him, and I hope he get’s convicted.”

“We’re glad he’s getting charged, but we hope he get’s charged with the fullest,” said Cage.

However, Michael went further, saying that the other officers who were not charged deserved discipline as well.

“Had they knee on his chest, had cuffed him, turning him over, just standing there watching him die,” Michael said. “I feel some of them should have gotten charged too.”

--> Video shows fatal collision between Michigan State Police SUV, fleeing man in West Michigan

After the incident, Samuel can be heard writhing in pain on video before he succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

Still, Police Officer Association of Michigan President Jim Tignanelli said he believes Nessel overcharged Kelly in this instance.

“These guys were part of a crime; allegedly, they were running from the police,” said Tignanelli. “Aren’t they supposed to catch the bad guys? And we are human beings, and we make mistakes; I’m not even sure a mistake happened here, in my opinion.”

Tignanelli said police veterans are now quitting their jobs because they do not want to face felony charges for doing their jobs. He added that these kinds of charges hurt recruiting.

“Police used to have waiting lists for academies,” Tignanelli said. “We used to have seven or eight academies running every year. Now we have academies with nobody in them.”

The Sterling family has hired well-known Detroit Attorney Ven Johnson, who says he will be suing Michigan State Police as a result of this case.

“It is unfortunate that in this time of political correctness, Michigan’s Attorney General has chosen to ignore the facts of this incident and rely on political pressure. It is also unfortunate that our Governor, without having seen or heard all the evidence in the case, chose to interject her opinion and side against law enforcement in this matter.

Detective/Sergeant Keely is a highly trained and decorated Trooper, a 25 year veteran of the Michigan State Police. He was assigned to the Emergency Support Team for 10 years where he was given an award for Bravery and Life Saving actions when he was shot in the chest while rescuing a hostage from being killed.

D/Sgt. Keely has been assigned to the U.S. Marshall’s Task Force for several years, making hundreds of arrests without incident. D/Sgt. Keely has over 12 years experience of safely operating police vehicles without a single at fault accident in the performance of his duties.

In this pursuit, he operated a vehicle that was unmarked, but equipped with emergency flashing lights and a siren that were activated and is commonly used by law enforcement around the state and country in the apprehension of wanted fugitives.

The loss of Mr. Sterling’s life is tragic and can never be replaced. D/Sgt. Keely is a man of faith and feels broken-hearted for the Sterling and Cage families.

However, this was an accident that could have been avoided had Mr. Sterling simply turned himself in prior to the U.S. Marshall’s Task Force being assigned to apprehend him.

This accident could have also been avoided if Mr. Sterling would have simply complied with the commands of the Detectives. Mr. Sterling’s action not only put himself in danger but the citizens that were in the area at the time.

We look forward to bringing all the evidence and facts out before the court in defense of D/Sgt. Keely.”

Attorney Marc E. Curtis

About the Authors

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.

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