Civil rights attorney demands footage in fatal police chase, but city lawyer says none exists

Apr 16, 2024, 1:31 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Civil rights attorney Ben Crump demanded Tuesday that police in a small town in Mississippi release camera footage of a chase that ended in the death of a Black teenager, but the city attorney said the police department does not use cameras.

“I have been advised by the Chief that the police vehicles in Leland are not equipped with dash board cameras nor were the police officers equipped with body cams,” Josh Bogen said in an email to The Associated Press.

The AP filed a public records request March 29 seeking documents about the fatal encounter that occurred in the early hours of March 21, including incident reports, body camera footage and dashcam footage of the police chase of 17-year-old Kadarius Smith and his cousin.

Smith and his cousin were out walking when a Leland Police Department vehicle chased them and ran over Smith, said his mother, Kaychia Calvert. Smith died hours later at a hospital.

Bogen said Tuesday that the district attorney has not yet released a police incident report about the chase.

Leland is in the flatlands of cotton and soybean country and has a population of about 3,900. It is about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northwest of Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson.

Smith’s family has retained Crump. They are demanding that the officer who drove the vehicle be fired and that unedited police camera footage be released.

During a news conference Tuesday in Leland that was livestreamed on Instagram, Crump mentioned Black people killed by police in high-profile cases in the U.S. during the past few years, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. Crump also led people in the chant: “Justice for Kadarius!”

He called on the police chief, the mayor, the city attorney and others in Leland to “do their job” and release camera footage and other documents in the case.

“If this was their child, what would they do?” Crump said. “Exactly what they would do for their child, we want them to do it for Ms. Calvert’s child and Mr. Smith’s child.”

Patrick Smith said he will never have a chance to see his son walk across the stage next year at high school graduation.

“I will never have a grandchild, because he was the last Smith,” his father said. “They took that.”

Bogen said officers were responding to a call about an assault in progress. He could not confirm if Smith was a suspect.

Bogen said police told him that at least one responding officer involved was Black, and that it was an accident that the police vehicle struck Smith.

In a March 27 interview with the AP, Calvert said her son’s cousin told her that he “heard a loud boom” and then saw the police SUV leaning like it was about to flip. She said he told her that the SUV landed on its wheels, ending up on Smith’s body.

Calvert described her son as “a loving, caring person” who was smart, independent and outgoing. He was in 11th grade and played on the Leland High School basketball team.

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Civil rights attorney demands footage in fatal police chase, but city lawyer says none exists