Jackson County

Family of man killed by Moss Point police stages sit-in, plans to file $10M lawsuit

After demanding immediate action by the city, the family of the man shot and killed by a police officer is staging a sit-in at Moss Point City Hall and announced intent to file a lawsuit.

Toussaint Diamon Sims, 27, was shot after a vehicle and foot chase with police Thursday night.

On Sunday, his family and their attorney, Carlos Moore, called for the resignation of Police Chief Brandon Ashley and the firing of the officer who fired the fatal shots.

They also demanded to see the officer’s body-camera footage, and asked that city officials call a special meeting Monday to take action.

However, Mayor Mario King said Monday the city is not planning a special meeting to try and meet those demands, adding that he as mayor has no authority over the firing of Ashley or the officer.

“We’re getting the runaround for someone to call a special meeting,” Moore said. The family and supporters plan on staging a sit-in until a meeting is called, he said.

In response, Moore pointed out that only one city official, Alderman Sherwoord Bradford, would agree to a meeting, but the other city officials would not agree to do so.

Intent to sue

Also on Monday, Moore put the city of Moss Point on notice of their intent to sue the city, the mayor, the police chief and the officer involved.

They are seeking $10 million in damages for constitutional violations, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, reckless disregard, excessive force and negligent supervision of officers involved and more.

“My client suffered and continues to suffer monetary losses from the injuries, including mental and emotional pain and anguish,” the intent to sue letter says.

Armed or unarmed?

The police chief said Sims was armed and pointing a weapon at an officer in a threatening manner when he was shot.

Moore said he has talked to seven witnesses, and another has since come forward, all of whom say Sims was not armed or threatening the officer when the shooting occurred.

In addition, Moore said six others witnessed the aftermath of the shooting never saw a gun on Sims.

The Sun Herald spoke Sunday with attorney Calvin Taylor, who is representing the officer and had reviewed the body-camera footage. He said it showed Sims had a firearm capable of firing dozens of rounds at a time when the shooting happened. He said the firearm was found near his body.

Moore and the Sims family believe they have a right to review the footage as well.

“I’ve asked the mayor and the MBI (Mississippi Bureau of Investigation) to release the video to the family if it contradicts the eyewitnesses that I’ve spoken with,” Moore said. “They have not produced it. I’m an attorney just like Calvin Taylor. If the officer’s attorney gets to see the video, so should I.”

Demanding access

At a press conference later Monday, Moore said he has filed a public records request and demands to the city and others that all evidence in the case be preserved.

Moore said he spoke to the lead MBI investigator, who told him allowing the officer’s attorney to view the body-camera footage was improper.

The MBI investigator told Moore that an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, the officer’s attorney and an MBI agent have seen the footage.

Moore is demanding access to the footage and is scheduled to meet with District Attorney Angel Myers-McIlrath on Wednesday, though he said she has already told him the rules of professional conduct do not allow her to release the footage to him.

“So, we will meet with the DA tomorrow .... and let her tell us the process,” Moore said. “We will let her know that we will not rest until this man (the officer) is arrested ...and prosecuted for nothing less than first-degree murder.”

McIlrath released a statement over the weekend, saying the rules of professional conduct do not allow her office to comment on pending investigations. Once MBI has completed the independent probe, the DA’s office will present the evidence to a grand jury to determine if criminal wrongdoing occurred.

Another witness?

Also on Monday, the Rev. Anton Jackson said he was at the scene in the aftermath of the shooting and saw an officer plant a gun on Sims after the killing.

I’m speaking the truth,” he said. “I don’t lie.”

Another eyewitness to the shooting was described by Moore as 68-year-old woman who works at a bank and has had nightmares since the shooting.

What she described to Moore, he referred to as “horrendous,” and called what happened “an execution.”

“She had the best vantage point of all the witnesses,” he said. “She was right there. She told me that the officer shot the individual one time, and the individual (Sims) fell.”

Once Sims hit the ground, Moore said, the woman said she watched as the officer walked over and stood at Sims’ feet and fired four more rounds.

Moore has vowed the fight for his cousin’s family until justice is served.

Seeking justice

King said he could not comment on the investigation, which is being led by MBI.

“I implore the mayor of the city to act,” Moore said. “He is the leader of the city. He’s a young black male. While it’s Diamon Sims today, who is five years younger than the mayor, it could be him tomorrow.”

As a 32-year-old African American man, King said he was torn over the shooting because he is fully aware of nationwide movements in support of both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.

“I understand the racial tensions in our country,” he said.

King said his main focus is the grieving family, and that he had met with them to offer support.

The mayor also said the family is not causing any disturbance at City Hall.

“This family is simply seeking justice,” King said. “They are nice. They are good people. They are just here for their child.”

An autopsy was scheduled Monday to determine the exact cause of Sims’ death.

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Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.
Alyssa Newton is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a background in television, radio and print. She’s originally from Dothan, Alabama and has a journalism degree from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Her passion lies in storytelling, news, sports and a strong espresso.