Judge: Rankin Co. sheriff not exempt in wrongful death lawsuit involving Pelahatchie man

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 11:04 AM CDT
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PELAHATCHIE, Miss. (WLBT) - A federal judge has issued a ruling saying Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey is not exempt from a wrongful death lawsuit.

The ruling, which was handed down last Friday, stems from the February 2019 shooting death of Pierre Woods in Pelahatchie.

Woods, who had mental health issues, was taken to the hospital where he later died.

According to investigators, when police arrived, the man inside the home began firing shots. They tried to negotiate with the man, who was inside the home.

Police say he was armed with a handgun.

At the time, law enforcement officers said lethal force (gas) was used, but the man came out of the house, armed, in a threatening manner.

That is when officers used deadly force.

Meanwhile, Woods’ family members expressed that they believe excessive force was used.

As a result, two years after the deadly shooting, the law enforcement officers and agencies who were involved were sued in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Sheriff Bailey was on scene giving commands. He asked for qualified immunity, meaning he would not be held accountable.

However, a federal judge did not grant it to him.

In a 14-page ruling, Judge Henry Wingate stated, “Sheriff Bryan Bailey is individually liable because: he was present at the scene; he was actively involved in the negotiations; and he played an important role in use of the alleged excessive force which led to Woods’ death.”

According to the judge, Bailey is liable because he was working in a supervisory role.

”An officer who is present at the scene and does not take reasonable measures to protect a suspect from another officer’s use of excessive force may be liable under Section 1983,” the ruling stated.

During the incident, Judge Wingate stated Sheriff Bailey “held the authority to order ‘cease fire’, which would have immediately stopped the officers’ shooting. Based on the record before it, this court cannot state that Sheriff Bailey’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances.”

WLBT reached out to a spokesperson for the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department for a comment on this ruling and are still waiting to hear back.

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