Moss Point police release body-camera video in officer shooting of Toussaint Sims

The city of Moss Point on Monday released body-camera footage from the police officer who fatally shot and killed Toussaint Diamon Sims on Aug. 8.

The shaky video from Sgt. Lance Shipman’s body camera does not include any audio until after Sims fell to the ground and lay motionless. The first time sound is heard in the video is when Shipman approaches Sims and points to a nearby weapon, saying, “there’s the gun.”

The video first shows Pascagoula and Moss Point officers surrounding a dark sedan at a gas station, where police have said they first tried to arrest Sims after he was spotted there. Shipman, holding a weapon, tries the door handle on the sedan’s passenger side when suddenly he and other officers dart to their cars.

Police have said Sims drove off and lead officers on a high-speed chase before a tire blew out, his car went into a ditch, he jumped out and ran.

Shipman can be seen driving in the video for just over 4 minutes, when he gets out of the car and starts chasing a man across a grass yard and around the corner of a home. Another officer can also be seen getting out of a car.

Police have said Shipman and another officer pulled out Tasers in their first to attempt to arrest Sims. But they dropped the Tasers and grabbed their guns after they saw Sims turn in their direction with a gun his hand.

As he rounds the corner, Shipman switches the Taser to his left hand and grabs his firearm in his right, at one point holding both weapons up. He then halts near some trees, and Sims can be seen lying on the other side of a low, chain-link fence.

An electronic beep can be heard as Shipman turns the sound on his body camera. He is breathing heavily and sirens can be heard in the background as the other officer comes into view.

“There’s the gun,” Shipman says. The other officer hops the fence, and Shipman says, “go ahead and handcuff him.”

The other officer uses his foot to scoot a gun near Sims’ feet away before checking for a pulse.

Sims’ wrist appears limp, and Shipman says “handcuff him anyway” and calls for an ambulance.

More video?

What wasn’t included in the release Monday was body-camera footage from any other officers at the scene. Authorities had suggested the other officer did not have a body camera.

In addition, Moss Point police had no copies of footage from a home surveillance camera that Shipman’s attorney, Calvin Taylor, has said clearly showed Sims was armed with a loaded semi-automatic gun with an extended magazine.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation took custody of the home surveillance video, but has not made it public.

A Jackson County grand jury last week cleared Shipman of any criminal wrongdoing after hearing from 25 witnesses, reviewing all video footage, and hearing other testimony from the MBI officer who headed up the investigation.

Since then, Sims’ family and their attorneys were allowed to review the video evidence. Their lead counsel, Brian Dunn of the Los Angeles-based The Cochran Firm, said the family does still plan to file a lawsuit against the city and the officers involved.

“When you look at the body-cam video itself, it really doesn’t show us that much,” Dunn said Monday. “As far as what we can glean from it is that Diamon was running away from the officers throughout the entire incident. He never engaged in any combative stance of physical movements that would suggest that he was trying to confront Officer Shipman.”

‘Not justified’

Dunn said he has no plans to dispute that Sims had a gun on him at the time of the shooting. But what’s clear, Dunn said, is Sims is trying to run away.

“This kinda underscores why the family had so many concerns,” Dunn said Monday. “Their position has always been that Diamon was running away and that he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. He was just trying to run away.”

Nowhere in police training is it taught that running is a cause for lethal force, Dunn said.

“Even running away with a firearm in hand doesn’t justify lethal force,” Dunn said.

What many people don’t realize, Dunn said, is that many people who have had run-ins with law enforcement, such as Sims, know they will face stiffer charges if they are caught with a weapon in hand.

“Unfortunately, we will never know what Sims would have done,” Dunn said. “He is not going to have his day in court because he has lost his life.

Watching all the body-camera and home security footage, Dunn said, did not persuade the Sims family that the killing was justified. The family also reviewed the video from a home surveillance camera when they met with the District Attorney’s Office last week.

“The family has never been under the impression the shooting was justified,” Dunn said.

In the next 30 days, Dunn said he will proceed with filing a lawsuit over Sims’ death against the city of Moss Point, Shipman, the police chief and others.

“One of the things that is most troublesome about an officer-involved shooting is the only surviving witness to the shooting is the officer,” Dunn added. “So, basically it’s one-sided. You are hearing one side of the shooting. We know Diamon didn’t fire the gun. He certainly had multiple opportunities to shoot Officer Shipman if he wanted to so this was quite simply a man running away.”

The Sims’ family, he said, expected the grand jury to clear Shipman of any criminal wrongdoing so that came as no surprise. As a result, he said, the family has an added layer of “indignation” because they know “nothing is really going to happen to the man that killed their son.”

‘Immediate need’

Before the shooting, Moss Point police said Sims was wanted on two counts of felony fleeing in other police chases, one count of aggravated assault, two counts of domestic violence by simple assault, and one count of assault by threat.

In addition, Gautier police had issued warrants for Sims’ arrest on a third charge of felony fleeing and a charge of felony child endangerment because he had a small child in the car during that pursuit.

Officer Brian Norton, who compiled the department’s incident report, said he agreed with the need for police to try to take Sims into custody the day of his death.

“Based on the totality of circumstances and the intelligence gathering I have received from multiple officers and citizens throughout the city of Moss Point, I felt the immediate need for officers to intercept Sims,” Norton said in the report.

Also known by the nickname “Dimesack,” Sims had a history of arrests dating back to his early teens. He had been arrested or named a suspect in a host of crimes, including for charges of burglary, motor vehicle theft, resisting arrest and other charges, according to police records obtained by the Sun Herald.

In one pending criminal case against Sims, he was wanted for allegedly punching and pistol-whipping a woman, resulting in serious injuries. The charge in that was aggravated domestic violence.

Related stories from Biloxi Sun Herald

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.