“Investigating and examining each and every death is crucial to anything I have done in my years of practice as a defense attorney,” said Justine Nagan and Laurence Munn in a joint statement responding to our decision to honor them with the 2019 CNN Freedom Project Freedom Award. Nagan and Munn were two of the investigators into the deaths of seventeen men during a single incident in Jamestown, Kansas in June 2018.
As they waited to start their investigation one officer outside the building opened fire on the officers outside the building and started shooting inside, shooting up an entire unit block within and leading to a lengthy shootout between officers and the officers. Although the majority of people involved were wearing red vests, Nagan and Munn didn’t know that at the time, nor did they know the members’ racial or
religious affiliation. “We did not know that they were Jamestown residents. Most people we talked to thought that they were white.” The officers weren’t from Jamestown, nor did Nagan and Munn have information about the people who lived in the building. All that they knew was that a man with a long gun had been shot in the leg and three people from that unit were dead. They were shocked when they came out to
investigate and they soon realized that the situation was much more deadly than they thought. Investigating the deaths of men who are African American has never been a stranger task for these awardees, but their own experience showing the humanity of these men who were killed makes their work even more important. They have worked to understand the lives of men who have been profiled, and the dehumanizing encounters
they face each day, and how these racist encounters play out in their lives. Munn made a deliberate decision to work to meet each of these men individually. “Understanding the lives of these Black men can help to heal the city of Jamestown.” He and Nagan drove through the community at night, with a camera rolling, and sat with the people who lived in the shooting blocks. When asked whether they thought each man had
been a suspect in the crime, Munn replied “never”. He continued with “I believe if we could meet each of these men individually, I would see this community heal.” Like many of their clients, each of these men was a father and a husband, but his actions made him even more vulnerable. “Ferguson has provided more than enough examples of how police officers have been killing unarmed African Americans and violating their
Constitutional rights. And in my opinion, these officers did a very bad job investigating this crime. I have been doing this work for 25 years and have never seen a case as complex as this one.” To read more about Justine Nagan and Laurence Munn’s investigations into law enforcement killings across the country, click here.