Lumumba: City policy prevented JPD from chasing after drivers doing donuts on I-55

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba discusses COVID-19, upcoming cold weather challenges.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba discusses COVID-19, upcoming cold weather challenges.(WLBT)
Updated: Jan. 4, 2021 at 1:48 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the police responded to a scene where drivers were doing donuts on I-55 Friday night.

However, the mayor said officers did not chase the offenders, due to the city’s no pursuit policy.

“As you are already aware, JPD has a no chase policy,” the mayor said. “We have seen the ill effects that take place from chases that begin from outside the city. This was certainly not a scene that JPD thought was best to have high-speed chase take place.”

The mayor spoke at a press conference Monday to announce plans for JTRAN. He and Police Chief James Davis also discussed a video that surfaced Saturday of teens doing donuts on I-55.

“We understand and appreciate the severity of this issue. People use our highway system to get to and from where they need to go,” he said.

He also discussed the matter at the Jackson City Council’s Monday work session.

Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay and Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote raised concerns about the police department’s response.

“It was at the intersection of my ward and Mr. Foote’s ward, so you can imagine the phone calls and texts that I got and I’m sure Mr. Foote got as a result,” Lindsay said. “People are sincerely alarmed.”

Foote said the city’s lack of a pursuit policy could make incidents like the New Year’s race more prevalent.

“In the mind of bad actors, they see it greatly reduces the downside to them do go and do stunts like this,” he said. “If they get upset and come after us, we can take off and they’re not going to follow us.”

The mayor said he understood Foote’s point, but said had a chase ensued, it likely wouldn’t have been fruitful.

“When we think of how this situation could have played out, you could have had an accident, or you could have had multiple drivers go in different directions and the likelihood of capturing more than one (is diminished),” he said.

He said the videos from the social media, as well as other information obtained by JPD, were far more valuable than what could have been obtained in a chase.

Hours before the work session, Lumumba characterized the incident as the “immature actions of a few young people who have mimicked things that have taken place across the country. This happened in Dallas, Texas. This happened in Memphis, Tenn., and took place recently in Atlanta, Ga. and Detroit, Mich., to name a few places.

“Young people have been sharing on social media these deplorable acts.”

The mayor said JPD did respond to the scene, and that the suspects fled when they saw blue lights approaching.

“The call came in as an accident. People who called it in (were) backed up in traffic and may not have known what was taking place in front of them,” he said. “At the time JPD responded, the actors in this circumstance sped away at a high rate of speed.”

Davis said it took about an hour for officers to respond, in part, because they had to get through the backed-up traffic.

“When the individuals saw the blue lights, they sped off,” Davis said, referring to the suspects.

Lumumba and the chief said the city is taking several steps to prevent this from happening, including identifying and holding accountable those involved in the January 1 incident.

“We want to make sure people know this not acceptable and you can’t do this,” the mayor said.

Meanwhile, the Jackson Police Department has expanded its coverage of the interstate corridor, to discourage drag racing and other dangerous driving.

Davis said the city is investigating the case and is working to identify the violators and bring them to justice.

Those arrested likely will face a variety of charges, including reckless driving, disorderly conduct, and obstructing traffic.

So far, one person has been arrested. The teen turned himself in after a weekend press conference discussing the incident, Davis said.

The video has gone viral and has caused outrage among many residents.

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