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MBI Will Not Release Names of Mississippi Police Who Shoot People, Negating Transparency Efforts

Keeping with state law, Jackson Police Chief James E. Davis hands over cases of shootings by Jackson Police Department officers to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations—although Mayor Chokwe Lumumba held a year of task-force meetings to respond to demands to identify the JPD shooters sooner. Photo courtesy JPD

JACKSON, Miss.—Four officer-involved shootings occurred in Jackson, Miss., between January 2021 and July 2022, but the Mississippi Department of Public Safety redacted the names of the Jackson Police Department officers involved in the reports the department made available to the Mississippi Free Press on Aug. 8, 2022, from a public-records request on July 29, 2022. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety waived the fee associated with providing the documents for the Mississippi Free Press.

“That is our policy in conducting officer-involved shootings—the officers’ names are not released,” Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officer Major LeCarus D. Oliver told the Mississippi Free Press during a Aug. 22, 2022, phone interview.

“As the investigation progresses through the criminal-justice system, if there’s an indictment returned against the involved officers, at that point, their information will be released,” Oliver added.

Based on the reports the Mississippi Free Press received, the officer-involved shootings in Jackson, Miss., took place on Aug. 19, 2021; Sept. 19, 2021; July 9, 2022; and July 25, 2022, all of which are active cases.

In 2021, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a law that puts the investigation of “all incidents of officer-involved shootings, other than state trooper-involved shootings, resulting in injury or death,” under the purview of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, House Bill 974, which modified Miss. Code Ann. 45-1-6, stated.

Police cars that say Police City of Jackson
Jackson police officers shot at least four people  between January 2021 and July 2022, but the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation will not release their names. File photo courtesy JPD

That law essentially negated a year of public “officer-involved shooting” task-force meetings in Jackson in 2018 in response to the Jackson Free Press’ reporting and editorials calling for the department to begin releasing names within 72 hours of an officers shooting someone, a typical national law-enforcement best practice for transparency and community trust.

“[T]he longer the law enforcement agency withholds this information, the greater the appearance that the agency is protecting its own personnel at the expense of transparency within the community,” a U.S. Department of Justice COPS guide to responses to police shootings advised in 2016.

“Some departments have come under serious criticism for failure to release the names of officers in OIS incidents. Other agencies have implemented standard release policies, such as 48 hours following the incident—sufficient time to notify the shooting subject’s next of kin, and allow officers enough time to notify their families and make arrangements for secure accommodations if they fear threats or retaliation.”

‘He Did Not Drop the Weapon’

On July 25, 2022, Jackson police officers responded to a call relating to a domestic disturbance on Collier Avenue. When a Jackson police officer arrived at the scene, he saw 38-year-old Tyrone Jones shooting into a vehicle with a woman inside, Police Chief James Davis would later tell the media.

“The officer gets out of his car (and) orders him to drop the weapon: ‘Drop the weapon!’” Davis said. “He did not drop the weapon.”

“He turned the weapon on the police officer, and that’s when the police officer fired upon him, and, of course, dropped him,” he said. “He succumbed to his injury.”

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Agent Dennis Weaver got to the scene and later wrote that Chief Davis briefed him about the incident and told him “that MBI would be the primary agency investigating this critical incident,” the agent wrote in his report the Mississippi Free Press obtained, with a redaction of the name of the officer involved in the shooting.

City’s Agreement with Mississippi Bureau of Investigation in 2018

At the end of the Jackson task-force hearings in 2018, the panel of civilians, law enforcement and public officials recommended releasing names within 72 hours of the shootings, but the City of Jackson soon acknowledged that MBI would take over handling of what is called “officer-involved shootings,” returning the practice to status quo of not identifying officers who shoot people.

In 2018, the City of Jackson signed an official agreement with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to conduct “independent investigations” of all officer-involved shooting incidents.

“We don’t feel that it is a good practice to investigate yourself in these circumstances,” Mayor Lumumba said on May 9, 2018, one day after the agreement with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.

That meant that the battle for transparency was lost after months of task-force meetings. Under the MBI policy, the public may never know the names of officers who shoot people, even more than once, if they are never indicted because that information remains hidden.

Headshot of Mayor Lumumba speaking
City of Jackson Mayor Lumumba said it is better for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to handle matters relating to officer-involved shootings. File photo Jackson Free Press / Stephen Wilson

At the time, the Jackson Free Press Editorial Board wrote that the move might signal a regression in the journey of transparency in those types of incidents.

In a bipartisan bill that Nick Bain, R-Corinth, and Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, sponsored three years later in 2021, the Legislature officially expanded the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s role to include investigating officer-involved shootings across the state.

That also expanded MBI’s anti-transparency policy.

Two Incidents in 2021

On Aug. 19, 2021, officers exchanged gunshots with 27-year-old Nathaniel Denote Jonte Garner after he ran away from officers, with one officer sustaining gunshot wounds “and taken to UMMC hospital, where he underwent surgery for his injuries.” Garner surrendered to the police later that day.

Exactly one month later, on Sept. 19, 2021, Jackson police officers went to Jackson Inn and Suites (5075 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road) after hearing the report of gunshots there.

A bipartisan bill that Nick Bain, R-Corinth, and Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus (pictured), sponsored put the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation in charge of officer-involved shootings in the state. Photo courtesy Mississippi House of Representatives

The documents the Mississippi Free Press obtained from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation indicated that the officers went to room 398, knocked on the door, identified themselves, and met 42-year-old Omarrdeshawn Sanders and his sister, who remained unnamed in the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation report that Officer Andre Cartlidge wrote.

“Mrs [redacted] opened the door, and the officers asked if there was anyone else in the room with her,” Cartlidge wrote. “[S]he states that her brother, Omarrdeshawn, was in the room.”

“Officers asked Mr. Sanders to come to the door, so that they could talk to him,” the officer added. “Mr. Sanders then started walking towards the officers, and they asked him if he had a gun, and he said he did.”

The report noted that Sanders pulled out a weapon, the officers fired on him, and he died from the wounds.

“Mr. Sanders was fatally struck, and no officer was struck in the fire exchange,” the report continued. “While at the scene, a possible victim of the fires shot call to the Jackson Police Department was (found) in the doorway of his room (379).”

Other Police-Involved Shootings in 2022

On July 9, 2022, JPD Sgt. Cazinova Reed briefed Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Officer Heath Farish about another JPD shooting at 4911 Old Canton Road in Jackson. The name of the Jackson Police Department officer involved in the shooting was taken out of the short report the Mississippi Free Press received. The report indicated that no one died in the incident.

A WLBT report at the time said Mississippi Department of Public Safety official Bailey Martin noted that the Jackson officer was not injured, and officials took the suspect to a hospital.

Blue and red seal of Mississippi Department of Public Safety
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is under the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, oversees investigations relating to police-involved shootings in the state. Logo courtesy Mississippi Department of Public Safety

The Capitol police, which the state government funds, operates in the Capitol Improvement District, a part of Jackson. Capt. Michael Maldonado pulled over 30-year-old Sinatra Rakim Jordan on Aug. 14, 2022, near Adelle Street and Lamar Street. What happened afterward remains unclear, though the incident resulted in another police shooting.

Jordan is charged with felony fleeing, careless driving, ignoring a traffic sign and driving with a suspended license, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said.

After the publication of this article, on Aug. 24, 2022, Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner’s Press Secretary Bailey Martin sent the following statement to the Mississippi Free Press:

“This administration has been working to increase transparency with the public regarding officer-involved shootings and other matters of interest.  As has been stated in the past, Commissioner Sean Tindell and his team are working on shaping and solidifying the agency’s policy regarding this issue.  While doing this, they are taking into consideration the need for preserving investigative integrity, the rights of involved and interested parties, and the public’s interest in governmental transparency.

“At the outset of an investigation, DPS and MBI will release MBI’s initial ‘incident report,’ with names of involved parties redacted. Once the investigation is concluded, MBI will turn its findings over to the appropriate prosecutor. It is then up to the prosecutor to determine whether to present the case to a grand jury. If the prosecutor advises that the case will not be presented to a grand jury, the matter is closed. If the prosecutor presents the case to a grand jury and a ‘no true bill’ is returned, the matter is closed. Otherwise, the case will only be closed once there is a final disposition from the circuit court, whether it be a guilty plea, a guilty verdict, a dismissal, or an acquittal.

“Once a case is closed, DPS and MBI will produce additional information upon request, which may include investigative reports and related documents, as well as related video/audio footage. The agency retains the right to redact or withhold certain information and/or materials if circumstances require it. In those cases, the agency will communicate its reasons for withholding information and/or materials.”

Read more about shootings by police officers in Jackson, and the unsuccessful fight for transparency, at jacksonfreepress.com/policeshootings.

Donna Ladd contributed to this report.

 

 

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