Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s anti-police record continued on Tuesday when she filed a murder charge against a Michigan State Police officer involved in apprehending a wanted fugitive.

Nessel on Tuesday announced two charges filed against 50-year-old Detective Sgt. Brian Keely in Kentwood District Court: second-degree murder, which carries a potential life sentence, or involuntary manslaughter, a 15-year felony.

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“We have found that Detective Sgt. Keely’s actions that day were legally grossly negligent and created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm, which could have otherwise been prevented,” Nessel said in a video announcement.


Keely was working with the Michigan State Police Fugitive Task Force attempting to arrest 25-year-old Samuel Sterling for multiple outstanding warrants on April 17 in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood.

Officers approached Sterling as he was putting air in a vehicle’s tires at a gas station, when Sterling fled from officers on foot. Officers pursued on foot and in vehicles, and an unmarked SUV driven by Keely struck Sterling as he ran through a fast food parking lot, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Sterling was taken to the University of Michigan Metro Health Hospital and died of his injuries hours later. Sterling was wanted for absconding from probation in June 2022, and had been sentenced in 2021 for two weapons charges and stealing a financial transaction device, according to The Detroit News.

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Sterling’s family immediately secured civil rights attorney Ben Crump, best known for cases involving George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and others killed in incidents involving police.

Shortly after, Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer weighed in on the case, vowing justice. Keely was suspended pending the outcome of Nessel’s review of a Michigan State Police investigation.

“The death of Samuel Sterling was unacceptable,” Whitmer said in a May 10 X post. “In light of video footage showing a departure from MSP protocols and high standards of the department, my expectation is the State of Michigan will take steps to terminate the trooper’s employment if criminal charges are issued.”

Now that they are, Keely’s attorney, Marc Curtis, is pointing to the political pressures behind his client’s prosecution.

“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,” Curtis said in a statement cited by WXMI. “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.”

Curtis noted that Keely is a 25-year veteran of the Michigan State Police with an unblemished record who received an award for bravery and life-saving actions when he was shot in the chest while rescuing a hostage.

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

“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,” the statement continued. “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…. Mr. Sterling’s actions not only put himself in danger but the citizens that were in the area at the time.”

Sterling’s death was ruled an accident by the Kent County Medical Examiner that signed his death certificate.

Keely’s prosecution marks the latest chapter in Nessel’s years-long campaign to crack down on law enforcement she doesn’t like.

In April, Nessel filed an amicus brief in a Court of Claims case seeking disclosure of the names of certified Michigan police officers, arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs.

While Michigan State Police argued that releasing the names would endanger officers, Nessel argued its more “important that the Michigan State Police are held to the same FOIA requirements as other state agencies,” according to an AG statement. FOIA is an acronym for Freedom of Information Act.

The brief followed Nessel’s push for a range of “reforms” in 2020 that would allow officials to revoke officers’ license for a broader range of misconduct, require permanent retention of all disciplinary records, create a statewide public officer misconduct registry, cancel retirement benefits for officers convicted of felonies, require police to report use-of-fore data by demographics, create a new agency to investigate officer involved deaths, and require more continuing education for officers, Bridge Michigan reports.

Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police noted at the time those reforms came with no consultation with his organization.

“The hits just keep on coming,” MACP Executive Director Robert Stevenson wrote in an email to Bridge.