Five Black residents of Lexington, Mississippi have filed a lawsuit against the police department for infringing upon their constitutional rights and racially targeting them, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY. Previously, the department’s police chief was fired for bragging about shooting and killing Black people in a racist rant. This suit was nearly inevitable.
Sam Dobbins was secretly recorded and exposed for boasting about shooting a Black man over 100 times, previous reports say. If this is what the leadership looks like, it’s no surprise the behavior trickled down the ladder. The suit, filed by civil rights law firm JULIAN, claims Lexington officers “threatened, coerced, harassed and assaulted the city’s Black residents.”
“We’re bringing this suit because we’ve got to protect the Black citizens of Lexington. Their rights are being routinely violated. They’re being intimidated, they’re being harassed, they’re being targeted, over and over and over again,” said Jill Collen Jefferson, president and founder of JULIAN, via USA TODAY.
More on the suit from USA TODAY:
The lawsuit says more than 200 Black citizens have formally or informally complained of police violence and misconduct in the past year.
Two of the plaintiffs, brothers Robert and Darius Harris, say police tried to falsely arrest them for violating a fireworks ordinance on New Year’s Eve. The brothers said although they were shooting fireworks, they were not breaking the law.
The pair “verbally resisted” arrest and an officer used a stun gun on Darius Harris before taking him into custody, according to the suit. In April, the brothers spoke about the incident at a community meeting to express their grievances and were arrested again 24 hours later on charges of “retaliation against an officer” and possession of marijuana, the suit claims.
Jefferson said the pair were among the most outspoken at the meeting, which led to police targeting them. “They still have not beat those charges,” she said.
The suit lists former police chief Dobbins, interim chief Charles Henderson, the city of Lexington and the Lexington Police Department as defendants, per Newsweek. The residents accuse them of violating their First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order against the department.
One resident, Shirley Gibson, said the police broke into her home without a search warrant in December, according to WLBT.
“An officer caught me by my neck, slung me on the ground, they Maced me not once but twice, they jumped on my son, they hit him, they stomped on his feet. I’m very terrified because this isn’t the first time they did this,” said Gibson.
This lawsuit only makes me think of all the other small, predominantly Black towns that are suffering abuse from the people appointed to protect and serve them. They may not have the resources to file a suit against the officers who mistreat them or maybe they don’t even raise the concern in doubt that justice will ever be served.