Jackson County

Grand jury clears Moss Point police officer of wrongdoing in fatal shooting

A Jackson County grand jury has cleared Moss Police Police Officer Lancen Shipman of any criminal wrongdoing for the shooting death of Moss Point resident Toussaint Diamon Sims.

“I never had any doubt as I saw the video,” said Shipman’s attorney, Calvin Taylor, after confirming the grand jury ruling. “I have great confidence in grand juries.”

Taylor said early-on that Shipman’s actions were justified because Sims had a loaded firearm that was found near his body after the Aug. 8 shooting.

The grand jury said in their report that they “engaged in a full and deliberate consideration of all the facts and circumstances surrounding” the shooting. They also noted that Sims was wanted on three felony and three misdemeanor charges, was running from police and had a “firearm with an extended magazine in his hands.”

There were 25 witnesses listed, which included Moss Point Alderman Sherwood Bradford and others identified by the NAACP

Brian Dunn, lead attorney at the Cochran Firm in Los Angeles and the chief attorney for the Sims’ family, said Sim’s family “is disappointed by the grand jury’s determination that the officer’s conduct did not rise to the level of criminal wrongdoing when he shot and killed him.”

“We will continue our pursuit of justice for the family which will include a civil lawsuit against the officer and Moss Point Police Department,” Dunn said. “Now that the grand jury process has concluded, we are hopeful that the body camera video at the center of this case will be released to the public. The community deserves to see for themselves the clear evidence in this case.”

The NAACP and the attorneys for the Sims’ family have vowed to question the authenticity of Shipman’s body camera footage, alleging Moss Point police broke the chain of custody when it allowed Taylor to review it before it was secured by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. MBI conducted the independent investigation.

In addition, the NAACP said they had interviewed at least 14 witnesses who said Sims was not armed when Shipman shot and killed Sims.

Moss Point Police Chief Brandon Ashley called what happened “a tragic event.

“I have confidence that the investigation was thorough and complete on behalf of MBI,” Ashley said Tuesday, adding that “the District Attorney’s Office presented every witness available who came forward.”

“I want to commend the community for having patience to allow this case to come to a resolution,” Ashley said. “It was a tragic event for all parties involved, but I knew from the beginning our officer acted in a justifiable manner in accordance with state law and Moss Point Police Department policy.”

After learning of Tuesday’s ruling, the NAACP responded as well.

“I want to wait and have a meeting with the district attorney before providing any type of response,” NAACP President Curley Clark said Tuesday. “There are two sides to every equation, and it appears that in this case a side that we have not been privy to had more weight. We will determine our course of action after we meet with the district attorney.”

The shooting

Police had been looking for Sims on multiple felony warrants when they got a tip he was at a Pascagoula convenience store. Sims drove off when Moss Point and Pascagoula police tried to arrest him at the store. The high-speed chase exceeded speeds of 100 mph, Taylor said, and it ended after Sims’ tire blew out, his car went into a ditch, and he jumped out and ran.

Sims died after Shipman fired several rounds at him.

Afterward, Taylor told the Sun Herald what he saw while reviewing the body-camera footage.

Taylor said Shipman and another officer first tried to take Sims into custody in a “non-lethal manner,” pulling out their police Tasers initially because Sims did not have a gun in his hand when he first got out of his car and ran.

The officers dropped their Tasers and grabbed their guns, Taylor said, after they saw Sims reach down in his front waistband and pull out what appeared to be a gun. Sims, Taylor said, is clearly seen turning back toward the officer.

Some of the witnesses told the NAACP and attorneys for the Sims’ family that Sims was never armed and they saw police plant a gun on him after the shooting.

They have also questioned why authorities allowed Taylor to review the body camera footage but refused to allow any of Sims’ family or their attorneys to do the same.

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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.
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