3 On Your Side Investigates: Deadly Force

3 On Your Side Investigates: Deadly Force
Published: Mar. 13, 2018 at 10:34 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 14, 2018 at 4:43 PM CDT
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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - 3 On Your Side has confirmed the same Jackson police officer pulled the trigger in two deadly officer-involved shootings over a three-month period, according to multiple sources.

The officer's name will not be disclosed unless a grand jury returns a verdict in that case.

Still, the revelation causes concern for many in the Capital City who urge JPD to be more transparent about these killings at the hands of Jackson's finest.

"We just want to know the truth. We don't want to just be told something to pacify us," said Lashaunda Thompson.

Shortly after Jackson Police shot and killed Crystaline Barnes on Fernwood Drive, Thompson and other members of Barnes' family expressed doubt and concern over the events that transpired.

Six weeks later, they're no closer to knowing what happened that day.

That doesn't sit right with local NAACP president Wayne McDaniels.

"We got people in the public walking and driving right now scared. Actually scared of the police. And in most instances, when the police drive up, that's why they take off running, which sometimes the results are a shooting," McDaniels said.

Since July 1, the Capital City has had seven officer-involved shootings.

Three African Americans died at the hands of police during that time.

On November 15, a female officer shot and killed 38-year-old Nathaniel Fleming after he reportedly tried to stab the officer at Mayes and Lampton streets.

Then on January 27, two officers shot at Barnes and killed her after they say she tried to hit them with her car.

Less than a month later, two officers shot and killed Lee Bonner after they said he fired a shot at them.

In each case, JPD says the officers' safety was threatened, and in return, they opened fire, which is in accordance with the department's use of force policy.

Our investigation revealed -- through multiple sources -- that one of the officers who shot Barnes also shot and killed Fleming in November.

"From what I understand, she knew the man. She knew him. And from what I understand, she knew the young lady also," McDaniels said.

That detail has not been confirmed by investigators.

Once an officer uses deadly force, JPD policy says that officer will be placed on administrative leave for an appropriate period of time, if needed, and the officer will have to be psychologically evaluated.

"Anytime an officer pulls their weapon, something has gone wrong," Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. "Anytime someone dies, the loss of life is always tragic, whether that shooting was justified or not, and so we have to make sure that we pursue proactive measures to make certain that we build more trust between the community and law enforcement."

The first-term mayor also supports citizen review boards, which would be an independent body that would evaluate the facts.

"It can be a measure that we can incorporate in our municipal court process to make certain that justice is being dispensed," Lumumba said.

JPD is also going further to make sure that officer is not a danger to the community, he said.

"The police chief has taken the extra step to ensure that any time we have an officer-involved shooting, before that individual can return to work, they have to be cleared by a grand jury," Lumumba said.

Lumumba said Interim Police Chief Anthony Moore is making sure these are pursued as criminal cases by an independent agency.

"We have the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is handling those investigations," Lumumba said.

But MBI spokesperson Courtney Ingle said the agency isn't handling those investigations at all, and hasn't assisted Jackson with any of those deadly officer-involved shootings.

"I don't know what that official word is. I know what has been relayed to me," Lumumba said, after being asked about Ingle's statement.

When asked if Moore told him that MBI was involved, Lumumba said it was relayed to him, but would not confirm it came from Moore.

"Whether or not they have concluded it, I really couldn't speak to it," Lumumba said.

McDaniels said he had heard the same thing Lumumba mentioned after speaking to Jackson's interim chief days ago.

"We were told that MBI was investigating the case. Through my state president, his sources at MBI, he was told they were not. I would hope that somebody in the loop is wrong, because the worst thing you can do is lose trust of community leaders and people who could help you," McDaniels said.

Sgt. Roderick Holmes didn't confirm the MBI connection either, but has said each time these deadly shootings would be investigated internally and criminally.

However, the results of those investigations haven't been released despite multiple requests for that information.

Bonner's family members told reporters that what they're hearing about what happened contradicts what police have said.

"My brother was shot way more than two times," Quana Spell told residents in February.

Spell claims it was more than 12 times, even though Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart and a JPD source refute that.

In Crystaline Barnes' case, her aunt refuses to believe she would try to kill someone else.

"Why kill her? That's what I want to know. Why did you have to kill her?" Lenda Barnes told 3 On Your Side shortly after the shooting.

"This investigation is going to be fair, it's going to be unbiased, it's going to be thorough and complete," Moore told reporters after Barnes' death in late January.

However, Moore has been very vague when addressing these deadly shootings.

That's a departure from the way JPD previously handled these investigations, when former Chief Lee Vance would often be seen on camera telling rep orters -- and the public -- that the officer's actions were justified and they believe the officer did the right thing.

A cursory search of WLBT archives show 11 officer-involved shootings in Jackson in 2016, and in half of those, Vance defended his officers' actions.

Those officers are also shielded from public scrutiny because of a longstanding practice by JPD not to release their names.

"We don't think it's the best policy to release the officer's name because that could really trigger a lot of different problems," Moore told reporters on February 26.

This flies in the face of a recommendation from officials with the Department of Justice, who said law enforcement agencies should release the names of officers involved in these shootings within 72 hours.

"It's only fair. You release my name if I committed a crime, suspected crime," McDaniels said.

In February, Moore also did not confirm whether any of the same JPD officers had been involved in more than one shooting, as our investigation revealed.

"I don't think it's a pattern, but I don't want to get into discussing if more than one officer has been involved in more than one shooting," Moore said.

Lumumba said he would be cautious before rushing to judgment, and was quick to point out that he wasn't going to comment on the particulars of any case because they're still under investigation.

"As mayor, I have the position where I have to look at the issue from a 30,000-foot view, where I have to understand the issues of justice and whether officers are treating people appropriately. I also have to be concerned with the struggle of crime and the people who are fearful in the community and the things that they say," Lumumba said. "So it's very difficult for me to rush to judgment on any particular issue without having all of the information at my disposal."

However, McDaniels has been in close contact with Barnes' family and said these answers from police aren't good enough.

"The family members need to know. They need to have closure. They've done buried their loved ones. They need to have closure. And you can't have closure if you don't know everything," McDaniels said.

Holmes told 3 On Your Side that all of the city's officer-involved shootings have been sent to the Hinds County District Attorney's office for grand jury consideration.

3 On Your Side also requested the incident reports from these deadly shootings, but the department still has yet to produce them.

In fact, one request from February 1 still hasn't been produced, meaning JPD and the city of Jackson are in violation of state law by refusing to release this public document within 14 days.

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