Rally held on courthouse lawn four months after jail inmate’s death

Roughly 100 people gathered on the front lawn of the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown on Tuesday morning exactly four months since the death of Ta’Neasha Chappell.

The 23-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, woman died as an inmate of the Jackson County Jail on July 16.

A death certificate has yet to be released to Chappell’s family. Indiana State Police is investigating her death.

The occasion taking place was the Rally for Ta’Neasha. Around 20 people spoke at the rally demanding justice, surveillance footage to be released by the jail and accountability for Chappell’s death.

Ameira Bryant from the Louisville organization Justice 4 Louisville emceed for the rally. The rally was organized by Justice 4 Louisville.

“We are here to bring notice and awareness to a life taken — one of our lives taken. It could be simply anybody, but unfortunately, it was Ta’Neasha Chappell,” she said at the beginning of the rally.

Louisville attorney Sam Aguiar also spoke. He is representing Chappell’s family in a $30 million lawsuit against Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer and eight other employees of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department for deliberate indifference, negligence and wrongful death.

After getting a phone call learning that #WhatHappenedtoTaNeashaChappell was becoming a prominent hashtag, Aguiar said he came to Brownstown and walked around the town.

While he said Brownstown “fit the stereotype that (he) had,” Aguiar said he met good and decent people and started hearing stories about the jail.

“Nonviolent folks are being put into this jail and treated like animals,” Aguiar said.

The local residents in the crowd were addressed by Aguiar.

“For all you locals, you know that it’s still business as usual over there, and it’s going to be business as usual over there until there is some form of justice,” he said.

Since Chappell’s death, her family has gotten no explanation for what happened to her by the police, Aguiar said.

On July 15, Aguiar said Chappell was poisoned, and for hours, everyone except “the people that wear a badge and swore an oath to protect her” knew something was wrong. He called Chappell’s family “decent” and said that the only thing they’ve asked for is answers.

“One of these days, hopefully law enforcement is going to wake up and realize that bad apples have to go because the reason why we’re out here going at the system is because they protect each other,” he said.

Tahasha Halloway, a nurse and Breonna Taylor’s aunt, said jail nurse Ed Rutan was there to advocate for Chappell while she was in custody and he refused to do that. She called for his nursing license to be revoked.

Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, two of four co-founders of the social justice organization Until Freedom, spoke at the rally and said they flew in from New York. They were two of four co-chairs for the 2017 Women’s March and considered Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” that same year.

“The reason why this continues to happen is because they think we’re going to sweep it under the rug and go on with our lives,” Sarsour said. “Ta’Neasha Chappell deserves for people to say her name and for people to understand, for those of you that are local, that this Jackson County Jail is run with your taxpayer dollars, so if you are a resident of this town and you are paying taxes, you by extension are complicit in the torture that happens at this facility.”

Sarsour talked about her vision for freedom in the United States.

“When Black people are free in America, when they can walk through the streets of their communities, when they can have jobs and they can thrive, guess what? All of us are going to thrive,” Sarsour said. “None are free if Black people are not free.”

Mallory spoke about the reason she and Sarsour traveled to Jackson County.

“We unfortunately have had to leave our homes in New York and travel cross-country to fight for Black women and not enough people are standing up for Black women across this nation, and so that is why we came,” Mallory said.

She continued to say that it is important to advocate for Black women, and Chappell’s criminal history is irrelevant surrounding her death.

“We came because we show up all the time for our brothers and we should, but not enough people see it as important to show up for a Black woman, especially when they start to smear her name in the media,” Mallory said. “It does not matter to me what Ta’Neasha was accused for doing. It does not matter to me. The point is that she should just be like Kyle Rittenhouse and afforded the right of trial.”

Chappell was arrested after the theft of items from the Polo Ralph Lauren store in Edinburgh and held on $4,000 bond. The theft led to a pursuit with police that went through three counties and ended near Exit 7 in Clark County after she collided with an Indiana State Police vehicle.

Mallory talked about her experience in Brownstown.

“I’m happy to be in a small town that I know they don’t want us here,” she said. “They’re watching us through the blinds. We see the offices looking at us. We’re coming back and we will continue to bring national and international attention to Ta’Neasha and this family because she deserves it.”

Former Jackson County Jail inmate Makayla Smith talked to the crowd about getting to know Chappell while she was serving time.

Smith said Chappell was in fear for her life since she was booked into the jail in May. She also said Chappell said she got into a fight with three other inmates at the jail.

The bond grew between Smith and Chappell to the point that they made plans to go to Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville and meet Chappell’s family when they got out of jail. Smith said she still went when she got out and “could feel her everywhere” and wished she could’ve met her family under better circumstances, rather than at the rally.

Ronesha Murrell, Chappell’s sister, said Chappell’s death has taken a major toll on her spirit.

“Ta’Neasha, thank you for being the baby sister you are, for being unapologetic about of who you are. Ta’Neasha, I love you. Thank you for every moment, every memory we made with one another,” she said

She said anyone who was a participant in her sister’s death should face charges.

LaVita McClain, Chappell’s mother, reflected on her daughter and the hardships of losing her.

“I suffer tremendously to this day,” she said. “Losing my baby girl was like watching someone else’s life on a movie screen. This pain is real. I feel very lonely at times because I miss her so much. I’m trying to move forward, but it’s hard because my baby was murdered. This happened in the hands of law enforcement. I want to know why. Was it because of her tattoos, the tone of her voice or the color of her skin?”

After addressing the crowd, the song “The Best In Me” by Marvin Sapp was played and McClain said it was the last song that she remembered listening to with her daughter.

Nevaeh Chappell, the 10-year-old daughter of Chappell, spoke about her mother to the crowd.

“What happened to my mom is sad,” Chappell said. “She was the best mom, auntie, cousin and daughter. She was one-of-a-kind. She was the best mom, if you ask me.”

Before ending her speech, Chappell demanded the crowd say her mom’s name. The crowd loudly obliged.