JACKSON COUNTY -- Two Jackson County deputies involved in a shooting that killed an Army veteran have returned to work following an internal investigation by the department, Sheriff Mike Ezell said in an exclusive interview Friday with the Sun Herald.
"This is following an internal investigation, but MBI (the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation) is the investigating agency in this," Ezell said. The deputies, neither of whom was identified, went through "kind of a counseling session with some of the senior leadership and we felt like after that they were fit for duty. We did not find any evidence of any problems but MBI has the whole matter. They are working in conjunction with the District Attorney's Office. We have not found any evidence of wrongdoing."
The District Attorney's Office will present the investigative findings to a Jackson County grand jury, which will decide if there was in fact evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Christian Bowman, 23, had a gunshot wound to his chest and was in handcuffs but "still fighting" minutes after a deputy radioed in the morning of May 9 to say he and his partner had a few "bruises and cuts" but were otherwise fine, according to radio traffic of the altercation captured on Broadcastify.com.
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Bowman, 23, died at the scene.
According to the Sheriff's Department, a deputy initiated the investigation in one of the hotel rooms at the Ramada Inn in the St. Martin community based on information he received during an investigation into an unpaid taxi fare there.
The Sheriff's Department first reported a hotel clerk had dialed 911 to report suspicious activity in a room. Later, sheriff's Capt. Chris Stratton clarified and said, "There was no 911 call."
The Sheriff's Department press release said deputies shot Bowman after he became "aggressively combative toward" a deputy and the two fought. A second deputy arrived to help the first "subdue" Bowman.
Jackson County called in the MBI to do the independent investigation and the two deputies were placed on paid administrative leave.
According to the police-radio traffic, a deputy first radioed in to say he smelled marijuana, then silence followed for a few minutes until a deputy said on the radio he has "one at gunpoint."
Several more minutes pass before the deputy radioed back in to report "shots fired" and asks for an ambulance.
The deputy reports Bowman is "still fighting" but is in custody and in handcuffs.
The deputy's shift supervisor steps in at that point, according to the dispatch radio, and tells the deputy to give him a "21," the code for a phone call. The deputy is back on the radio minutes later and says the man in handcuffs is "still fighting."
A deputy radios back in and says the man has a gunshot wound to the chest.
Deputies tried to help Bowman by performing CPR, according to the radio dispatch audio.
Sherry Bowman disputes the reports about her's son's killing.
Bowman said in an interview with the Sun Herald that her son was "brutally" beaten.
She said a witness provided graphic details about the altercation that left her son dead.
The witness, she said, described deputies hitting her son repeatedly with heavy-duty flashlights and the butts of their pistols.
"He said they took their Maglites and was beating him in the face, that they were punching him, kicking him, they took their pistols out, was pistol-whipping him," Sherry Bowman said, "and then they shot him."
She did not identify the witness, instead identifying him as a man who was sitting on another bed in the hotel room at the time deputies came in. She said her son was sleeping.
"The kid that sat there on the bed, he was scared to move because he was scared they were going to do the same thing to him," she said.
Bowman was the first to say deputies came there to investigate an unpaid taxi fare.
Her son, she said "was sleeping when the cops came in the room."
"Anybody that is woken up like that, it's going to be confrontational. He may not have even know what was going on."
Bowman never got a chance to see her son before his body was taken to Jackson for an autopsy.
Bowman also went to the hotel shortly after her son's death.
"I don't understand if there was such a big fight on the inside and they shot him on the inside of the hotel room, why was there blood on the outside of the door?" she said. "Why was it smeared all over the wall? From the door to the TV was smeared, but yet 2 feet away from there is where he was shot and killed."
Bowman also questions why deputies had to shoot her son.
"I don't understand why they would beat him and then shoot him," she said. "They had Tasers, for God's sake."
Ezell said the truth about the shooting will come out.
"We are supposed to do our due diligence for all parities involved here," Ezell said. "You know, this is very serious."