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Michigan detective charged with murder after crashing into suspect in unmarked police car

A Michigan State Police trooper has been charged with murder and faces up to life in prison for allegedly hitting a suspect in an unmarked police car during a police chase, causing fatal injuries.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday that she is filing charges against Det. Sergeant Brian Keely, 50, in connection with the death of Samuel Sterling, 25, who was black.

Keely is charged with one count of second-degree murder, which carries a penalty of life in prison, and one count of involuntary manslaughter, a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. Sterling’s family welcomed the news; his mother, Andrica Cage, told NBC affiliate WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids that she cried with happiness.

Keely and the state police Sixth District Fugitive Task Force attempted to arrest Sterling, a probationary absconder wanted on several felony warrants, on April 17, the attorney general said. He was spotted at a gas station in Kentwood, a Grand Rapids suburb, and after being approached by police fled on foot, the attorney general’s statement said.

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“A number of MSP troopers and other local law enforcement pursued Sterling, both in their vehicles and on foot, when the unmarked vehicle D/Sgt. Keely was driving and struck Sterling in the parking lot of a nearby fast food restaurant,” police said. The Public Prosecution Service reports this in a statement.

Samuel Sterling moments before he was struck by a car driven by Michigan State Police trooper Det.  Sergeant Brian Keley.  (WOOD )

Samuel Sterling moments before he was struck by a car driven by Michigan State Police trooper Det. Sergeant Brian Keley. (WOOD )

Sterling was taken to University of Michigan Metro Health Hospital but died from his injuries later that day. Sergeant Keely’s actions that day were legal, grossly negligent and created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm that could otherwise have been avoided,” Nessel said in a video announcing the charges.

Body-worn camera footage released by state police shows Keely on the ground and badly injured, screaming in pain.

Ven Johnson, the Sterling family’s attorney, told WOOD-TV that the officer “clearly used a police car as a deadly weapon, knowing full well that Samuel was there and that by crashing into him, he went over a curb.” To go and try to cut him off, he knew he could hit him.”

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“Some would say he hit him intentionally, and that’s what it looked like to me on the video,” Johnson added.

Detective Sergeant Brian Keely of the Michigan State Police (WOOD)Detective Sergeant Brian Keely of the Michigan State Police (WOOD)

Detective Sergeant Brian Keely of the Michigan State Police (WOOD)

Marc Curtis, Keely’s attorney, told WOOD-TV that Keely was a religious man who was “heartbroken” for Sterling’s family and said the charges were the result of political pressure. “It is unfortunate that in this day and age of political correctness, the Michigan Attorney General has chosen to ignore the facts of this incident and rely on political pressure,” he said in a written statement.

“It is also unfortunate that our governor, without seeing or hearing all of the evidence in the case, has chosen to speak her mind and oppose law enforcement in this case,” he continued.

Curtis added that the “accident, while tragic, could also have been avoided if Mr. Sterling had simply followed the commands of investigators.” Curtis previously said his client had “no intention” of harming Sterling.

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Michigan State Police voluntarily referred the case to the attorney general on May 10. Keely has been suspended since the day of the incident.

“Public integrity is a top priority for my department and we remain committed to a thorough and fair review and resolution in every case brought to us,” Nessel said.

Keely’s arraignment date has not yet been set.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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