Wednesday, February 6, 2019
JACKSON After about a year of asking, the Jackson Free Press learned the names, current status and in eight out of nine cases, the details of officer-involved shootings since Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba took office in July 2017, promising transparency and police reform.
We also learned that one officer, Anthony Veasey, was involved in three shootings, none of them fatal. A second officer, Rakasha Adams, fatally shot two individuals—a likely mentally ill vagrant with a knife, and then a young mother—less than two months apart. Neither of those officers is currently on active duty while investigations are underway in the most recent of each officer's shooting incidents.
Internal-affairs officers inside the Jackson Police Department exonerated Veasey in his first two shootings of the period and Adams in her first incident, saying the shootings were warranted.
The only officer shooting incident listed in the documents that provided no details beyond the officers' names was the most recent—which the JFP correctly deduced and then confirmed with JPD spokesman Sgt. Roderick Holmes was the Jan. 5 shooting of Perez Porter, 18.
Sgt. Holmes confirmed Officers Veasey and Jarron Carter are on leave with pay during the investigation of the Jan. 5 mid-day incident in south Jackson, in which Perez Porter, 18, and a 15-year-old allegedly stole a car from the 300 block of Elms Court Circle and then decided to burglarize a house in the 1500 block of Wingfield Drive. A 2-year-old was sleeping in the stolen car, but was unharmed.
Veasey and Carter responded to the burglary call to Wingfield Avenue and saw the two teenagers running away, pursued and then exchanged gunfire with them. Porter's family reports that he was hit five times in one leg and two times in the back, and has had surgery because one of the bullets still in his back had "travelled."
Both Porter and the 15-year-old were charged with auto theft, kidnapping, house burglary and two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer. Gunfire did not strike either officer, Holmes said.
Porter was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for treatment and then released to jail, returning 10 days later for the additional surgery.
Holmes of JPD would not confirm the family's report that Porter was struck seven times, or where the bullets struck. "Porter did suffer a minimum of three gunshot wounds; however, I cannot confirm an exact amount," Holmes said when asked about the family's report. "Regarding whether or not he was returned to the hospital for follow-up surgery, I am not aware and cannot advise, since the correctional facility where he is housed is responsible for his transportation to and from."
"At least one weapon was recovered along with several spent casings," Holmes told the Jackson Free Press in an email this week about the case.
"I am not able to confirm whether one or both (teenagers) fired shots. It is safe to assume that a records check of the recovered weapon did not reveal it as stolen because that would have been an additional charge," Holmes wrote in email.
Porter, the 18-year-old, is in jail without bond. After the Jan. 15 surgery, he is back in the Hinds County Detention Center medical division, where his mother and other family are not allowed to visit. She can talk to him by phone, however.
The 15-year-old is also locked up, charged as an adult and facing a $250,000 bond. It is unclear whether he had a gun, as JPD will only confirm that one was recovered at the scene for sure, which Porter likely was carrying.
The Jackson Free Press does not typically name minors charged with a crime.
Anthony Veasey: Exonerated Twice, So Far
The list the City provided to us showed Veasey involved in two shootings since July 2017, with further details provided.
On Nov. 15, 2017, Veasey along with other officers, were conducting an "administrative checkpoint" in two spots near James Garfield Circle and Abraham Lincoln Drive in Presidential Hills.
Mikelle Bracey, 24, ran through a checkpoint, police say, hitting an officer's flashlight with his rear-view mirror. With police in pursuit, he ran into a grassy embankment. He got out and ran, with Veasey close behind. Several officers said Bracey was holding either a black or a silver item, or a gun, in his hand, depending on the officer. Veasey later said Bracey pulled out the gun in a yard behind a house, and that he fired at Bracey, striking him in the leg.
Police did not, however, recover the weapon officers reported seeing that night, or the next day, although they found a loaded handgun on the passenger seat of the car Bracey had fled.
Bracey was taken to the hospital and was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, but declined to talk to JPD investigators further about the shooting. JPD Internal Affairs exonerated Veasey.
Records show that then-Lt. Anthony Moore was the supervising officer that night, and was later the interim police chief to whom Internal Affairs reported findings about the Bracey pursuit and shooting.
Three men were police chiefs during the 14 months of shooting these documents detail: In January 2018, Mayor Lumumba replaced Lee Vance with Anthony Moore, saying his new chief was "familiar with the trends around the nation as he teaches criminal justice." Lumumba then promoted Assistant Chief James Davis to chief, replacing Moore in September 2018. Davis is the current chief.
The most recent alleged police-involved fatality—the head trauma that caused 62-year-old George Robinson's death in January—was on Davis' watch, and he has not named the officers accused of beating Robinson on Jan. 14, 2019.
Mayor Lumumba released a statement on Jan. 28, 2019, saying that he would not release the names of the K9-unit officers who allegedly hit Robinson in the head with a flashlight during a sweep of the Washington Addition. He said his apparent recent executive order to name officers involved in shootings within 72 hours did not apply to force such as a beating. Lumumba said he would re-convene his office-ID task force, which took months to make a recommendation last year, to decide whether to add force other than shooting to the recommendation, a decision this newspaper believes is a delaying tactic.
Veasey was next involved in a shooting on June 1, 2018, during a checkpoint at Maple Street near Congo when he pulled up with other officers in an unmarked police car. Veasey, along with Officers Lincoln Lampley and Desmond Barney—JPD records show they were also present at the pursuit of Bracey—told investigators later that they announced themselves as police and were wearing vests with "POLICE" across the front. But witnesses on site, who said later they were there because a friend had been killed, said they didn't know they were officers when they jumped out of the car.
In an exchange of gunfire, Spencer Jackson was struck, but not fatally.
JPD documents show that one of the men on the scene, Robert White, said he was among the group in front of the house who just had a family member killed. He said the group noticed a white (unmarked) car pull up and people getting out with rifles, thinking they were about to shoot into the group. He said he heard an officer say, "Hey people!" but did not hear them identify themselves as police, and did not know they were officers until he was arrested.
JPD Internal Affairs exonerated the officers who fired that night.
A Hinds County grand jury also effectively exonerated him and numerous other officers in April 2018.
Veasey's name, spelled as "Veazy" unlike in police documents, was included on a list of people that a Hinds County grand jury no-billed, or failed to indict, in April 2018. His charge was listed as aggravated assault. That list, published by WLBT, begins with eight police officers involved in officer-involved shootings since late 2017. Seven of those—Veasey, Albert Taylor, Roy Dickerson, Warren Hull, Kenneth Short, Cory Smith and Rakasha Adams—are on the list of officer-involved shootings that this newspaper's recent public-records request revealed. Per the list WLBT published, the grand jury declined to indict one officer, Eric Stanton, who had shot into a vehicle.
Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba has shielded names of officers involved in shootings since he took office in July 2017.
Stanton was also part of the officer-ID task the mayor convened to decide whether to reveal the names of officers who fire their weapons.
The eighth officer, Rakasha Adams, was listed twice on the list of non-indictments in April 2018. Adams had killed two people, Nathaniel Fleming and Crystalline Barnes, within two months of each other.
Rakasha Adams: Two Deaths, Three Months Suspension
In his report, Precinct 3 Lt. Randy Avery called the man Officer Rakasha Adams shot and killed on Nov. 16, 2017, "a possibly mentally challenged black male."
Adams answered a call that a vagrant was sleeping in a white rocking chair in front of a senior apartment complex on Mayes Street, holding a stick and a box full of tickets. When she roused Nathaniel Fleming, 39, he said, "This is my property. Get me to St. Dominic's right now."
The officer, who was alone, called an AMR ambulance. But Fleming would not get in because he couldn't take his cigarette lighter into the ambulance, and then walked away. She followed to tell him he had to leave the property, but he moved toward her cursing, refusing to remove his hand from his pocket. Then, she reported, he pulled out a knive and charged at her. "Don't you come here with that bullshit at me!" he yelled, JPD documents show.
Fearing for her safety, Adams told investigators, she drew her gun and fired one time, striking Fleming in the chest. Two AMR paramedics, who were nearby, tried to perform CPR on Fleming, but he was pronounced dead at UMMC. Police say a knife was found in the grassy area where he fell from the gunshot.
Investigators determined that Adams "did what she could to render service to the complainant and aid to the male suspect" and did not violate departmental policies.
However, JPD leadership and investigators were not as forgiving about Adams' next gun fatality on Jan. 27, 2018.
That day, Adams tried to stop a red Pontiac sedan driven by Crystalline Barnes, 22, for a traffic violation. But she did not yield to their blue lights and siren.
JPD documents show that Adams pursued Barnes' vehicles although the roads were wet from rain from the area around Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Ridgeway Street. She did call on the radio for assistance, but did not notify the dispatcher or her immediate supervisor that she was in an "active pursuit of the car," then-interim Police Chief James Davis wrote to her nine months later when ordering a 90-day suspension to discipline her for the incident.
"Subsequently," Davis added, "you and the officer assisting you, fired shots at the vehicle after you said the driver attempted to run over both of you at the Overstreet Avenue location. It was only after the car struck a utility pole and shots had been fired into it that you notified your supervisor by phone of what had transpired. Unfortunately, the driver of the vehicle succumbed to the injuries sustained as a result of the gunfire."
Adams had violated the JPD's "Vehicle Pursuit Policy" of only initiating and continuing vehicle pursuits "when the related offense is a violent felony and when the benefit of apprehension outweighs the risk of injury or death. In all incidents that involve high speed driving, the safety of officers and the public must be the primary consideration."
Adams also violated the "Attention to Duty" policy requiring officers to be "attentive" to all assigned duties and "use sound judgment," Davis' memo stated.
Just after Barnes died, JPD released to media a blurry mugshot of the deceased and evidence of a prior misdemeanor violation. Outcry over that attempt to sully the deceased name, including from this newspaper, led Mayor Lumumba to set a new policy that the City and JPD will not release such prior records to justify use of force by officers in unrelated incidents.
Barnes' family filed a $10-million lawsuit, on behalf of Barnes' 2-year-old and 6-year-old children, against the City of Jackson and JPD a month before Davis suspended Barnes from duty. The lawsuit argues that Adams and Officer Albert Taylor violated Barnes' "constitutional right to be free from excessive force." The lawsuit accused a third officer, Eric Morris, of conspiring with the other two to cover up the violations in subsequent police reports.
That argument represents only one side of a legal dispute.
Adams can return to active duty with Jackson police on Feb. 28, 2019.