ST. MARTIN -- The mother of an Army veteran killed in an altercation with Jackson County deputies Monday said her son, whom one of the deputies shot and killed, was also "brutally" beaten.
In an interview with the Sun Herald last week, Sherry Bowman said a witness provided graphic details of the altercation that led to the fatal shooting of her son, Christian Bowman, 23. "From what I was told, they beat him brutally before they shot him," she said, stopping as her voice pitched and she began to weep.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell said Friday he could not respond to comments about the shooting itself. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is conducting an independent probe into Christian Bowman's death. The MBI has not returned repeated calls from the Sun Herald.
Sherry Bowman said the witness described deputies hitting Christian Bowman numerous times with heavy-duty flashlights and the butts of their pistols.
"He said that they took their Maglites and was beating him in the face, that they were punching him, kicking him, they took their pistols out, was pistol-whipping him," Sherry Bowman said, "and then they shot him."
She did not name the witness, identifying him only as a man who was sitting on another bed in the hotel room at the time deputies entered.
"The kid that sat there on the bed, he was scared to move because he was scared they was going to do the same thing to him," she said.
Sherry Bowman also disputed reports that officers were there to investigate any drug-related crimes.
According to the witness, she said, deputies were at the hotel because someone supposedly tried to skip out on a taxi fare.
Sherry Bowman gave her interview three days before Sheriff's Department officials released new information about the shooting, including one detail concerning a taxi cab.
Officials would not say whom the taxi driver had accused of skipping out on a fare. Sherry Bowman said her son had nothing to do with the taxi.
'He was sleeping'
"He was sleeping when the cops came in the room," she said. "Anybody that is woken up like that, it's going to be confrontational. He may not have even known what was going on."
Bowman said she never got a chance to see her son before his body was taken to Jackson for an autopsy.
Christian Bowman's death comes less than a year after the Bowmans lost their eldest son to cancer in June.
"I don't understand why they would beat him and then shoot him," Sherry Bowman said. "They had Tasers, for God's sake."
Blood tells different story
She went to the hotel room north of Interstate 10 after her son's death.
"I don't understand if there was such a big fight on the inside and they shot him on the inside of the hotel room, why was there blood on the outside of the door?" she said. "Why was it smeared all over the wall? From the door to the TV was smeared, but yet 2 feet away from there is where he was shot and killed. I don't understand none of this, and nobody is going to talk to me."
According to a radio exchange between deputies and their dispatcher, Christian Bowman was in handcuffs with a gunshot wound to the chest but was "still fighting" after a deputy radioed in to say he and his partner were fine other than a few "bruises and cuts."
Bowman died at the hotel.
A Sheriff's Department press release said the Christian Bowman was shot after he became "aggressively combative toward" a deputy and the two fought. A second deputy went to help the first deputy "subdue" Bowman, the release said.
In addition, the Sheriff's Department release erroneously said a clerk at the Ramada Inn had called to report suspicious activity in one of the "units" there.
That changed Wednesday.
Revision to initial report
"There was no 911 call," Sheriff's Capt. Chris Stratton said, clarifying the error. A deputy, he said, initiated the investigation based on information he received about the unpaid taxi fare.
According to police-radio traffic captured on Broadcastify.com, a deputy first radioed in to say he smelled marijuana followed by silence for a few minutes until a deputy radioed back in and said he has "one at gunpoint."
Minutes passed before a deputy got back on the radio to report "shots fired" and asked for an ambulance.
The deputy said Bowman is "still fighting" but was in custody and in handcuffs.
The deputy's shift supervisor stepped in, according to the dispatch audio, and told the deputy to give him a "21," the code for a phone call. Afterward, the deputy got back on the radio and said the man in handcuffs is "still fighting."
A deputy radioed in again to say the man had a gunshot wound to the chest.
Deputies said they were performing CPR and asked if an ambulance was on the way.
Will truth be known?
Sherry Bowman questions whether she'll ever know the truth about what happened to her son.
Ezell says otherwise.
"Everything will be brought out," he said Friday. "What happened, everything, will be totally, completely investigated and we will find out everything that happened that night. We will leave no stone unturned. We will cooperate fully with MBI in this case and answer any questions they bring to us."
When questioned more about the unpaid fare to the taxi driver, Ezell said, "I was not there, I have not interviewed anybody."
"You always have concerns when something like this happens and I'm concerned about everybody in this county," Ezell said. "We will get through it. We will cooperate and let the investigation show everything that happened and went on. It's all going to come out. I'm just going to leave it at that."
Both deputies involved in Christian Bowman's shooting death are on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome the investigation. Ezell did not identify the deputies involved.
A Jackson County grand jury will hear evidence in the killing and determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing.
The killing is the state's fifth by a law enforcement officer reported this year.