Crime

Moss Point police body camera footage of fatal shooting could be altered, NAACP says

The NAACP plans to question the authenticity of the Moss Point Police Department’s body camera footage of the death of Toussaint Diamon Sims if the eyewitness accounts don’t coincide with what is in the video footage.

”We made it known to the district attorney that the Moss Point Police Department broke the chain of custody of the (police) video cam evidence when they allowed (attorney) Calvin Taylor to review it prior to a grand jury,” Curley Clark, president of the Jackson County chapter of the NAACP said Thursday. “Therefore, we feel like there is an appearance of a possible cover up because our witnesses did not see a gun in Diamon Sims’ hands at the time of the shooting nor did they see a gun near his body after he was shot.”

Taylor, Clark said, was allowed to review body-camera footage before it was turned over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the agency in charge of the independent investigation.

Sims, 27, of Moss Point, was fatally shot by a Moss Point police officer the evening of Aug. 8.

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 chase ended after Sims’ car went into a ditch and he jumped out and ran.

He died when a police officer shot and killed him.

Curley Clark
Curley Clark is a delegate from South Mississippi to the Democratic National Convention. CARA OWSLEY THE SUN HERALD FILE

Officer’s attorney reacts

Taylor sat down with the Sun Herald after the fatal shooting to discuss what was in the police body-camera footage.

He said his client and another officer initially pulled out Tasers to try and take Sims into custody in a “non-lethal manner” because Sims did not have a gun in his hands when he first jumped out his car to run.

The officers dropped their Tasers and grabbed their guns, Taylor said, after they saw Sims reach down in a front waist band and pull out what appeared to be gun. The video, he said, clearly shows Sims turning back toward the officer and the officer felt like Sims was about to shoot.

Taylor said the officer fired several rounds at Sims until he jumped a fence and fell to the ground.

The body-camera footage, Taylor said, clearly shows Sims had a firearm capable of firing dozens of rounds. He said the loaded gun was found near Sims’ body.

Taylor called the idea of someone altering the video “nonsense.”

A cover up?

The NAACP has interviewed more than 10 witnesses who, Clark said, never saw Sims with a gun in his hands, from the time he jumped out of the car to run away to during or after the shooting.

“I’m saying there is a possibility the video was altered and that was made possible by the Moss Point Police Department breaking the chain of custody of the video-cam evidence,” Clark said.

Taylor called the allegations of the possibility of anyone altering the police video footage, he called it “nonsense.”

Meanwhile, Clark said he has met with District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath to express their concerns and to provide witnesses who could provide testimony when the grand jury convenes Monday. The grand jury will ultimately decide whether the officer involved committed any criminal wrongdoing.

“The NAACP is working independently to make sure a civil rights violations has not occurred,” Clark said. “All the accounts we were able to obtain indicated that Diamon was running like hell full-speed trying to flee and didn’t have time to turn and point and was subsequently shot multiple times in the back.”

Clark said the NAACP will pursue federal civil rights violations is there is any question about the validity of any of the evidence presented to the grand jury.

Letters to the DA

Clark on Thursday backed up his meetings with the DA in a letter he provided to the Sun Herald.

In the letter, McIlrath wrote: “As I explained during our meeting, I intend to present all evidence related to the shooting of Toussaint Sims to the Jackson County grand jury. In that regard, the grand jury’s review and deliberation would be aided by any information you or your investigative team have been provided by witnesses.”

McIlrath asked the NAACP to provide all written and recorded statements of witnesses.

The Sun Herald reached out to McIlrath for comment Thursday, but she declined, referring instead to an earlier statement about how her office is limited in what it can say due to Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct.

But since Clark had the meeting with McIlrath, he said he has heard of two additional witnesses, one of whom is an unidentified woman and the other identified as Moss Point Alderman Sherwood Bradford.

The NAACP collaborated with attorneys for the Sims’ family regarding the potential witnesses.

The grand jury is set to hear evidence in the case next week.

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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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