By now, our readers have heard a lot about Moss Point. As we have previously reported: An officer involved shooting. An on again, off again attorney. A $10 million civil suit. NAACP accusations of a cover-up. A city alderman who called the cop a murderer before any evidence had been turned over. All the makings of a Hollywood script. An “eyewitness” who emerged almost 2 months after the shooting, who just happens to be someone who was already trying to get the cop fired.

Now, a Jackson County grand jury has cleared Officer Lance 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 report said 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 him.

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. 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.”

Clark is correct. There are two sides to every equation. On one side, you have the variables. These are the parts and pieces that are added, subtracted, multiplied or divided to end with an expression. In this instance, the expression was “no criminal wrongdoing.” Is it possible that Clark is hoping that there are two correct answers to every equation?

As we previously covered, Bradford, the same alderman that publicly called the officer involved a murderer, had come forward to say that he just happened to be in the exact location at the exact time if the incident. The same alderman that has been publicly reprimanded for sexist and racist statements. The same alderman that recently had a restraining order placed against him by the city’s mayor. 

He has made multiple public comments regarding the case, but neve once did he state that he was present or that he saw the events in question.

Unfortunately, this is real life in a Mississippi town.

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The NAACP is questioning the authenticity of the Moss Point Police Department’s body camera footage of the death of Sims. Supposedly, their “eyewitness” accounts don’t coincide with what is in the video footage.

One of the people the NAACP said witness the event claims to have cell phone footage of the cops planting a weapon on the suspect, but he has not shown the footage to anyone.

”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, had been permitted to review body-camera footage before it was turned over to the Mississippi Bureau if Investigation, the agency in charge of the independent investigation.

Perhaps Mr. Clark does not grasp the difference between a criminal process and a civil one. The District Attorney has seen the video. With the possibility of facing a grand jury indictment, not only does it make sense that the officer’s attorney has access to the same evidence, it is a legal requirement. It is called discovery Mr. Clark. Look it up. 

Taylor sat down with the Sun Herald after the fatal shooting to discuss what was in the police body-camera footage. Here is his account of what he viewed.

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.”

And now, the NAACP is hinging its case on an eyewitness who has lost his credibility after being the subject of a restraining order.  

According to WLOX, King said he was forced to file this injunction because Bradford interferes with day-to-day operations, which include directing work crews and making decisions the mayor said Bradford shouldn’t be making.

Bradford denies the assertions, saying he’s doing his job as an elected official, and he will continue to do his job as an elected official and make sure that companies hired by the city are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and on time.

“He said I’m interfering with his day-to-day. He’s a youthful, incompetent young man,” Bradford said.

The judge in the case ruled that the mayor has a right to make those decisions and said that aldermen “have no authority to become involved in the day-to-day functioning of municipal departments but are entitled to act as advisers and observe city departments, including asking questions of municipal employees and gathering information for the purpose of reporting back to the board as a whole.”

“I’m appreciative of the Chancery Court. We have an awesome team,” King said.

Tensions have obviously risen between Bradford and the mayor since Bradford proposed a new policy in July that included reducing the mayor’s pay. The proposal was approved by the board, but King released a veto proposal, claiming it intentionally defamed him and his character and that changes were not done in good faith.

However, the board voted in August to override the veto proposal. Not only was King’s pay cut by 15% but he is also not allowed to drive city vehicles home or more than 50 miles without permission from the board. Other restrictions placed on him included bi-weekly reports on the mayor’s performance and tighter control over media releases issued by King.

Several days after the vote, King filed an appeal in Circuit Court to throw out the new policy saying that placing these limitations on him holds him back from doing his job. In response, the board voted in a special-called meeting to retain an attorney to represent the city.

This is just the latest story to add to Bradford’s greatest hits.

Moss Point, Mississippi is still a city in turmoil.

Here is a reminder of what has transpired there over the past few months.

While their primary cause of concern stems from a recent officer involved shooting, now one of the city’s leaders is in hot water for allegedly making derogatory and racist comments. 

And guess what?

It’s the same ‘leader’ that called a police officer a ‘murderer’ for his recent involvement in a fatal shooting, long before an investigation could even begin. 

Recent allegations against Alderman Bradford claim that he has made repeated inflammatory sexist and racist remarks. The mayor is asking the board to vote to decrease Bradford’s salary and wants him to apologize for his divisive comments.

An email from Mayor Mario King to Bradford shows the mayor saying,

“After a day of thought process on how to address your angry and negative comments toward the women in city hall, I feel it is only right if you offer them all a written apology as to your statement saying, ‘they all over 200lbs’ and that they were ‘trash’ and that ‘nobody wanted them.’”

The email continues, alleging that Bradford later “continued to threaten the women by saying ‘anyone who made a complaint against you shall be brought before you and the board and they would be fired.’”

The mayor goes on to ask that Bradford “do a better job at controlling your tongue.”

In addition to requesting a pay deduction, the mayor also asked the board to take action against Bradford after the he allegedly referred to a vendor by a racist term, saying: “[Bradford’s] comments on July 3, 2019, were inappropriate, racist and warrants a written apology to the vendor and employees that witnessed it.”

A letter from a witness statement states Bradford stormed into the utility office where two white customers were being helped, demanded that the two utility employees mow his grass before his family arrives from out of town, and yelled, “What? I’m tired of these crackers!” when he was asked to wait for the other customers to be helped. A police report detailing the incident is also attached to the witness statement.

“Bradford’s sporadic and erratic behavior as shown on June 27, 2019, towards Julius Bridges was in violation of state code and directly interferes with day-to-day operations and the mayor’s ability to carry out the board’s wishes as a majority. Also, that he should never go on a job site demanding that work approved by the board be stopped. Bradford’s sporadic and erratic behavior as shown on July 30, 2019, towards Matthew Fountain was inappropriate and considered hostile and in direct interference with the mayor’s ability to carry out day-to-day operations.”

For the record, all the motions brought by the mayor were killed on the floor. 

Bradford was recently called out by LET for his immediately condemnation of a police officer who fatally shot a suspect. 

A special council hearing was called shortly after the shooting to address the investigation, along with the public outcry that accused the officer of being racist and planting evidence. But instead of trying to calm the tensions within the city, Alderman Bradford publicly called the officer a ‘murderer’ and has even asked for his termination. 

Bradford stated that he, along with the rest of the Aldermen, should have access to the body camera footage. His reasoning: the Aldermen voted to approve the finances needed to purchase the equipment.

Apparently, determining the truth of what happened that night and clearing an officer who acted in a justifiable manner is of no importance to the city leader.

Remember — that’s a city leader unfairly and unfoundedly increasing the tension between police and the public.

Aldermen, and all city leaders, should be pushing for a full investigation and an effort to uncover all of the facts before publicly condemning the very people who are sworn to uphold the law. 

According to reports, Sims’ own mother filed charges on him just a short time prior to the incident for allegedly breaking into her home and stealing his stepsister’s vehicle. It was noted that Sims’ mother was upset with the Moss Point department for failing to catch Sims prior to the shooting. Sims also reportedly had several active felony warrants in multiple cities, including one for severely beating his girlfriend with a pistol, knocking her teeth out.

Sims has additionally held two active warrants for fleeing from police. Moss Point Police Chief Ashley confirmed that at the time of his death, Sims had six warrants out for his arrest.

A recent video from Snapchat showed what appeared to be a pistol with an extended magazine sticking out of Sims’ waistband — the exact same place that he allegedly had the gun on the day of the shooting. The officer’s attorney additionally described the pistol that was recovered at the scene similarly — a handgun with the same type of extended magazine.

So, when the public comes out and frames Sims as an innocent man who was brutally gunned down and ‘assassinated’ by police, we can see that those claims are completely false. 

The shooting resulted after Sims, who was wanted on several felony warrants, fled from police in a vehicle resulting in a chase in early August.

Sims crashed the vehicle he was operating and continued on foot. Officers pursued hoping to use a taser to subdue to him, however, when Sims reached for a gun in his waistband, one of the officers responded with gunfire.

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