The NAACP is questioning whether the deadly shooting of a man by a Moss Point police officer was justified, and the attorney representing the officer who fired the fatal shots said he acted appropriately.
Toussaint Diamon Sims, 27, was shot and killed Thursday evening after a vehicle and foot chase involving officers from Moss Point and Pascagoula.
Police had first tried to take Sims into custody on felony warrants for fleeing and aggravated domestic violence after they spotted him at a Pascagoula convenience store.
According to Moss Point Police Chief Brandon Ashley, Sims drove off, leading officers on a vehicle chase that ended at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Second Street.
Sims left the vehicle and was running from police, Ashley said, when he turned and pointed a gun at an officer in threatening manner and the officer fired, killing Sims.
An autopsy to determine the cause of death is scheduled Monday.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is investigating.
Curley Clark, of the Jackson County chapter of the NAACP, said their investigation so far indicates Sims was not armed at the time the officer fired the fatal shots.
“We immediately started interviewing witnesses, and the account they provide verified that the officer shot the suspect in the back and that there was no gun in his possession at the time,” Clark said.
But, he said, the NAACP also learned that Sims may have had a gun at some point in time, but he did not have a gun in his hands or anywhere visible when the officer shot him in the back.
The NAACP is asking for a thorough investigation by MBI. The Jackson County District Attorney Office will ultimately present the evidence in the case to a grand jury to determine if any criminal wrongdoing occurred.
District Attorney Angel Myers-McIlrath said she could not release any additional information.
“While I understand this is a matter of public concern, the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct limit what information can be released, at this time, pertaining to the ongoing investigation. Specifically, Rule 3.6 prohibits me or my office from communicating to the public certain information, including but not limited to, evidence expected to be presented in ongoing proceedings.
Rule 3.8 requires prosecutors to exercise reasonable care to prevent law enforcement from making such public communications, as well. For these reasons, we will not comment on the facts concerning this ongoing investigation.”
Attorney Calvin Taylor is representing the unnamed Moss Point officer who fired the fatal shots, and he took an unprecedented move Sunday to talk about the evidence in the case.
“With the allegations being made,” Taylor said, “I thought it was important to get some of the facts to the public.”
Taylor reviewed police body camera footage of the vehicle chase and the shooting as well other evidence before commenting.
When the shooting happened, Taylor said, Sims was armed and displaying what appeared to be .9 mm firearm with an extended clip that is capable of firing dozens of rounds.
He said the officer involved initially had a Taser in his hand that he intended to use to try and take Sims into custody. He said the officer did not grab his firearm until he was threatened.
“I would like everybody to remain calm, respect the process and let the professionals complete their investigation,” Taylor said. “I am providing evidence and information in order to dispel any notion that this was anything other than a justified officer-involved shooting.”
As the officer’s attorney, Taylor has access to the evidence, including all body camera footage.
He said Sims’ gun was found near his body.
“Everything I have told you, I witnessed with my own eyes,” Taylor said. “He (Sims) was armed to the point of the shooting. It was textbook how this officer responded to the shooting.”
In addition to being wanted on the felony warrants, Taylor said Sims also was wanted for questioning in two homicides in Moss Point.
Taylor had planned to release other information, including photos from the body camera footage Sunday, but said he wanted to wait to see if Moss Point police would provide the additional evidence to the public Monday.
Meanwhile, Sims’ family and their attorney Carlos Moore planned a press conference and “Justice Rally” at 6 p.m. Sunday to address the shooting.
Sims said he often responds to help families of people who have been victims of police brutality.
“These days I literally keep a suitcase partially packed as I know not the day or hour I’ll have to head to another city to be with a victim of police brutality or with a grieving family intent on seeking justice for the loss of a loved one at the hands of law enforcement,” Moore said in an email. “This time it’s personal. I’ve been called upon by my own family to go up against my hometown .....for killing my cousin whose hands were unarmed according to multiple witnesses when he was shot in the back multiple times by a cop.”