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Family Buries Dexter Wade as Al Sharpton Demands Prosecutions at Funeral

Dexter Wade’s mother and uncle places flower on casket
Dexter Wade’s family laid him to rest a final time in the Cedarwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Jackson, Miss., on Nov. 20, 2023. An off-duty police officer driving an SUV struck and killed him in March 2023. The Jackson Police Department did not notify the family until August—after the county had already buried him in an unmarked grave. Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, front right, is seen here as family members placed flowers and mementos on his casket. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

JACKSON, Miss.—Rev. Al Sharpton said he wanted to come to Dexter Wade’s funeral at New Horizon Church in Jackson, Miss., on Monday for two reasons: “I wanted to give words of comfort to the family, but I wanted to give words of discomfort to the state of Mississippi.”

The national civil-rights leader delivered the eulogy for the 37-year-old man whose mother searched for him for over five months before learning in August that an off-duty Jackson police officer in an SUV had struck him as he was crossing Interstate 59 in early March, killing him. The department buried the father of two in an unmarked grave without notifying his family until August. Earlier this month, the county exhumed his body without the family present.

While speaking to the crowd of mourners, Sharpton said he wondered how anyone in Jackson “can sleep at night” after what happened to Wade and his family.

“It is time for the mayor and city council to stand up for Dexter,” he said. “How do you explain how a young man ends up buried? The autopsy said that he had state ID in his front pocket, yet you couldn’t find his mother? You couldn’t find some loved one?”

Dexter Wade photo poster at funeral
A portrait of Dexter Wade stood next to funeral arrangements as mourners gathered at New Horizon Church in Jackson, Miss., on Nov. 20, 2023. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said on Oct. 27 that Wade’s death was the result of miscommunications among multiple agencies, but that an investigation did not find “any police misconduct in this process or that there was any malicious intent.” The mayor referred to Wade’s death as “honestly, an unfortunate and tragic accident.”

Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes spoke at the funeral on behalf of the city council and apologized to Wade’s family.
“To the family and friends of Mr. Dexter Wade, another brave soldier has gone home to rest,” the third ward councilman said as he presented a proclamation declaring Nov. 20, 2023, as Dexter Wade Day. “Mr. Dexter Wade and his family are pillars of the community. His kind ways and smiling face will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved family and friends.”
U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens, Hinds County Supervisor David Archie and Mississippi House District 66 Rep.-Elect Fabian Nelson also attended.
Wade’s ID Was On His Body, Autopsy Finds

During his remarks, Rev. Sharpton called for the prosecution of whoever was involved in Dexter Wade’s death.

“We hear that the off-duty policeman is a Black cop,” Sharpton said. He invoked the name of Tyre Nichols, who died on Jan. 7, 2023, after several Black officers beat him during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn.

“I don’t care if he’s Black or white; what he did is wrong,” Sharpton said. “In fact, I’m more offended that you’re Black because you wouldn’t have done that to a young white man.”

The City has not named the off-duty officer who struck Wade in March. The Hinds County coroner’s office ruled Wade’s death an accident during the initial autopsy.

Bettersten Wade comforted by Ben Crump and Al Sharpton at Dexter’s casket
Attorney Ben Crump, left, and Reverend Al Sharpton, right, comfort Bettersten Wade as she stands over her son’s casket on Nov. 20, 2023. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Wade’s funeral comes days after lawyers for his family announced the results of an independent autopsy, which found that his ID was in his pocket at the time of his death, NBC News reported on Nov. 16. City officials said in October that “officers were unable to identify him at the time” of his death on March 5. By the time his mother, Bettersten Wade, filed a missing person’s report on March 14, the coroner’s office had identified Dexter Wade using a prescription pill bottle found on his body. But even then, no one notified the family.

After the coroner’s office and the Jackson Police Department failed to make contact with his next-of-kin, the Hinds County Board of Supervisors granted the coroner’s office permission to bury Wade at the Hinds County Penal Farm.

‘Your Skin Doesn’t Give You Immunity’

At Dexter Wade’s funeral on Monday, Rev. Al Sharpton questioned whether officials’ inability to reach his mother to notify her of her son’s death was related to her pursuit of accountability over the death of her brother, George Robinson, who died in 2019 after an encounter with several Jackson Police officers; witnesses at the time said officers bodyslammed Robinson and beat him with flashlights.

Wade’s mother and daughters on stage with Ben Crump and Al Sharpton at funeral
Dexter Wade’s mother Bettersten Wade speaks at his funeral on Nov. 20, 2023, alongside his daughters Joselyn and Johnelle while Attorney Ben Crump and Rev. Al Sharpton stand behind them. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

A jury convicted one officer on manslaughter charges in 2022, and Bettersten Wade has since pursued a civil lawsuit over his death. Since learning about her son’s death, she has publicly questioned whether Jackson police officers have a personal vendetta against her.

“I can’t even fathom how you think you can justify this,” Sharpton said at the funeral Monday. “Were you mad because his mother stood up to the police department about her brother? Is this some kind of revenge? You freaked out and didn’t know what you did? Whatever it was, tell it to the judge. Bring ‘em to court and prosecute ‘em.”

Sharpton called the circumstances surrounding Wade’s death and burial “one of the most disgraceful things” he had seen in his career.

“If a white cop had done it, we’d have 5,000 people marching,” he said. “Your skin doesn’t give you immunity. We’re not going to give you a pass.”

Ben Crump and Bettersten Wade holding hands at the burial site
Bettersten Wade and Ben Crump hold hands as her son’s casket is lowered into the ground on Nov. 20, 2023. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Several members of Wade’s family spoke at the funeral. Wade’s mother, joined by his teenage daughters Joselyn and Johnelle, thanked everyone who fought for justice for her son.

“I begged Dexter to come home. Dexter, you made it home, and I want to say to you: I am sorry I wasn’t there. You told me, ‘Mama, don’t stop, because I’m out here.’ And I found him,” Bettersten Wade said.

Sharpton said Bettersten Wade is no different from other mothers who have had to fight for accountability and justice after their children’s killings. “It has been the strength of our women who will stand up and make sure justice comes for their children,” he said.

“Unless we stand up for Dexter, we can’t stand up for any other cause of civil or human rights,” he continued. “If people have to qualify for justice, then it’s not justice. If you have to have a certain degree or be a member of the right fraternity to get justice, then it’s not justice. Until the Dexters matter, the movement doesn’t mean anything.”

Bettersten Wade, Ben Crump and Tiffany Carter at press conference
Following Dexter Wade’s funeral on Nov. 20, 2023, Rasheem Carter’s mother, Tiffany Carter, right, joined Bettersten Wade, left, and Ben Crump, center, for a press conference. “I can’t sit back. I have to get on the frontline and help other mothers,” Bettersten Wade said. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Following the funeral, Tiffany Carter—the mother of Rasheem Carter—stood alongside Bettersteen Wade and Ben Crump at a press conference. Rasheem Carter went missing last year, and his body was found dismembered on private property in Smith County.

“I can’t sit back,” Bettersten Wade said. “I have to get on the frontline and help other mothers.”

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