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Kosciusko police officer suspended for violating 3 department policies

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 3:29 PM CDT
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KOSCIUSKO, Miss. (WLBT) - Kosciusko Board of Aldermen voted to suspend a police officer in a special meeting Monday for violating several department policies.

Chief Christopher Wray says Officer Braxton Goza is suspended without pay for three days after making some poor choices in an interaction with a large group of teenagers last week.

The chief said Goza failed to activate his body camera, used conduct “unbecoming of an officer,” and also used the red dot laser of his taser gun and pointed it at a teenager from a faraway distance.

The chief also noted that Goza did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer at the time he activated his taser.

Chief Wray said the incident happened around 9 p.m. on Friday, May 13.

Three officers responded to a 911 call about loud music at Jason Niles Neighborhood park, the chief said.

When they arrived, Wray said the officers never heard the music, but did hear “vulgarity and boisterous music, and began listening to the teenagers’ conversation from across the park.”

“We have had multiple complaints about these young people gathering at businesses and parks; playing loud, vulgar music, disturbing the peace, littering everywhere they go,” Wray said. “They’ve also been racing through neighborhoods over the past six months and we’ve repeatedly given them warnings.”

The chief said Goza overheard one of the teenagers ask what it would cost to set someone up for a crime, and then returned to alert the other officers.

When another officer on the scene asked who among the group inquired about “setting someone up for a crime,” the chief said Goza used the laser from his taser to ID which teenager made the comment.

“If the officer was in the right, I would back him 100%, but because he made a mistake, we made the decision to suspend him for three days,” Wray said. “I think he’s a good officer, he just made a poor decision. He was frustrated that we keep having to deal with these teenagers disturbing the peace in our parks and businesses.”

Meanwhile, parents of the teenagers are outraged and claim the full story has yet to be released. Numerous parents say they’re planning to attend Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting to voice their concerns.

In a formal complaint to the city, the parents issued a statement sharing their side of the story.

“Around 20 teenagers were hanging out at Jason Nile Park during legal business on Friday, May 13, 2022, at approximately 9:24 pm. Suddenly, they noticed red dots were aimed at their chest from a weapon,” the statement from parents read.

“Shortly it was confirmed the weapon was carried by Officer Braxton Goza who never identified himself as a Kosciusko Police Officer. This caused the teenagers to become fearful for their lives. Afterward, they approached the teenagers in the police cars in the dark without using any lights or body cameras. Officer Braxton Goza ordered the teenagers to ‘get the <expletive> out of my city if I catch y’all riding my street you’re going to jail,’” the statement went on to say.

The police chief did not say exactly what the officer said in the exchange with the teenagers, nevertheless, parents believe the actions against Gaza were a slap on the wrist.

“We are demanding Officer Braxton Goza be immediately terminated based upon conduct unbecoming of a sworn law enforcement officer. The officers that were present at the scene with Officer Braxton should be reprimanded based upon their participation in allowing this type of conduct from a fellow officer,” parents said in the statement.

There’s no word on whether any additional actions will be taken against the officer, but Kosciusko Mayor Tim Kyle said he won’t tolerate mistreating anyone in public.

“We’ll back the officer all we can when they do right, but when you’re in the wrong, you’re in the wrong and he just made some poor choices at the time,” Mayor Kyle said. “That’s not what we want from our police department and it was inappropriate,” the mayor added.

Meanwhile, the police chief said he’s hoping to continue improving the relationship between the community and the citizens of Kosciusko.

“We are working to build community relations while trying to combat crime in our community. I am doing everything that I can to build the confidence of the police department to our citizens,” Wray said. “I brought the parents of the teenagers to the police department the day after this occurred and I apologized to them for the conduct of the officer and told them I would do everything in my power to rebuild the relationship between us and our community.”

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