Officer who shot and killed Moss Point man violated police policy, chief says

A Moss Point police officer violated policy the evening he shot and killed Toussaint Diamon Sims, an ongoing internal investigation has found.

“When you have any contact with the general public or any law enforcement action, you are supposed to turn on the audio on the body camera,” Police Chief Brandon Ashley said. “You have to manually turn it on. He thought he had, but he didn’t hit the button until after the shots were fired.”

As a result, Sgt. Lancen Shipman “will face disciplinary action and I’m sure he knows that,” Ashley said.

A first-offense policy violation typically results in a letter of reprimand in the officer’s personnel file, Ashley said.

A second violation can result in an officer’s temporary suspension without pay. A third violation could result in a recommendation to fire the officer, Ashley said.

Whatever action will be taken is still pending.

Shipman has been out on administrative leave with pay since the Aug. 8 shooting death of Sims, 27, of Moss Point.

Although a grand jury has since cleared Shipman of any criminal wrongdoing, he cannot return to work until a doctor issues a medical release for him to go back to the job.

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Toussaint Diamon Sims is armed and running from Moss Point Police Lancen Shipman prior to Sim’s shooting death the evening of Aug. 8, 2019. Courtesy Moss Point Police Department Courtesy Moss Point Police Department

‘You can shoot and run’

On Monday, Moss Point police released Shipman’s body-camera video from the shooting.

For the first time since the video’s release, Ashley provided an exclusive interview with the Sun Herald to talk in-depth about the shooting, the footage and questions from the Sims’ family attorney about why the officer fired if Sims was running away.

“This is a tragic event for all parties involved, and I truly mean that,” Ashley said. “But this event started from trying to apprehend a wanted fugitive.”

Sims has a history of arrests for violent and non-violent crimes throughout Jackson County from the time he was teen. He also has a prior conviction for grand larceny.

He led Moss Point police on two other pursuits, Ashley said, but in the past he left his gun in the car when he stopped and took off running.

“We considered him armed and dangerous,” Ashley said. “Once you pull a gun out of your waistband, the officer cannot wait to let you point it at him because he could be dead. He (the officer) has a split second to make a decision. You can’t wait to be shot. You know, you can shoot and run.”

Ward and Shipman, he said, got out of their cars with Tasers in hand because they wanted to take Sims into custody “in a non-lethal manner.”

“Mr. Sims made a choice to grab a gun and display that firearm,” Ashley said. “No officer puts their uniform on and goes to work wanting to discharge their firearms.”

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Toussaint Diamon Sim is dressed in black and running with a loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine in his right hand when he is shot and killed by Moss Point Police Sgt. Lancen Shipman the evening of Aug. 8, 2019.. Courtesy Moss Point Police Department

The footage

Moss Point released the only video it had, which came from Shipman’s body camera. The video had no audio until after the shots were fired.

Moss Point Police Officer Gerald Ward was the second officer at the scene prior to Sim’s death, but White did not have his body camera equipment with him at the time.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has a third video of the scene from a home surveillance camera, but that video has not been released.

Shipman’s video begins at 3G’s Convenience store on Telephone Road in Pascagoula, where officers first spotted Sims in a Honda Accord.

Police surround Sims’ sedan in an attempt to take him into custody on three felony and three misdemeanor warrants from Moss Point.

Although it can’t be seen in the video, Sims jumps from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat until he’s able to take control of his car and drive off.

A vehicle pursuit follows until Sims’ car goes into a ditch on Second Street, and he jumps out and runs.

Sims is seen running with a gun in his right hand. The gun is a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine capable of firing 30 rounds.

The officer had a police-issued .40-caliber Glock capable of firing 15 rounds.

The next thing you see is Shipman with a Taser and a gun in his hand.

Shipman, police said, ordered Sims to stop and drop the gun.

Shipman fired multiple rounds.

“Once he (Sims) pulled that gun out, he changed it to a deadly force encounter,” Ashley said. “The officer did not give him an opportunity to point it at him because he was in fear of his life.”

The first audio heard is after the shooting is when Shipman says, ‘There’s the gun.”

He tells another officer to handcuff Sims, whose body is limp and lying face-down on the other side of a chain link fence.

An officer kicks the gun away from Sims, then the video ends.

Moss Point police documented a .9 mm firearm with an extended clip that was found on the ground after Toussaint Diamon Sims was shot and killed August 8, 2019. Moss Point Police Department

No body camera?

Ward, the second officer at the scene prior to the shooting, was supposed to stop by the police station to pick up a body camera to put on when his shift started.

“He had just started his shift and hadn’t made it by the station,” Ashley said. “He went straight to the call. He didn’t have time to stop by the station to pick it up. That is not a policy violation. If there is a public safety issue, you go to the call first.”

Ward’s shift began at 6 p.m.

Sims’ car was first spotted at the Pascagoula store at 6:40 p.m. the report says.

The police department, Ashley said, only had five or six cameras that worked at time of the Sims’ shooting.

The only reason Shipman had one on that day was because he was one of two officers who had been allowed to take a new demo camera home to use and see how it works, he said.

Ashley said 25 new body cameras should arrive in the coming weeks — enough for all the officers to take one home and put it on the minute their shift begins.

In response to suggestions that the shooting video was altered, Ashley said that is not possible, other than to blur a face. The camera shoots 30 frames a second and each one is time-stamped and tied to an algorithm. A tape also can’t be erased or any footage added to it, he said.

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.