An incident involving a white Mississippi Highway Patrol officer and three black men is being investigated after viral video showed the officer putting a handcuffed man in a chokehold and wrestling him into a ditch.
The video, captured Friday in McComb by a man named Packer Lewis, sparked outrage over the officer’s conduct.
Video shows one of Lewis’s brothers, Eugene Lewis, standing in the street in handcuffs as Packer Lewis and another brother, Darius Lewis, shout as they record the incident. Suddenly, the officer grabs Eugene Lewis by the neck and pulls him across the street, pinning him to the ground. At one point, the officer appears to use his knee to pin him down.
“This is how George Floyd died,” Packer Lewis shouted while recording a Facebook livestream, referring to the 2020 killing of Floyd, a black man who was pinned below the knee of a Minneapolis police officer for more than nine minutes.
Packer Lewis said the Mississippi officer became aggressive after telling the Lewis brothers to leave the scene.
“He said you all had to go. It’s none of your business. We said it was our business because he was our brother,” Lewis told The Associated Press on Monday.
After detaining Eugene Lewis in a police cruiser, the officer then walked over to the other two brothers and pointed a gun at one of them. After another officer arrived, Packer and Darius Lewis were subsequently arrested.
Public officials said an investigation was underway. Authorities have not identified the officer involved or said what caused Eugene Lewis to be handcuffed. Packer Lewis said his brother was pulled over for speeding and then pulled over for having an expired license.
“The Mississippi Department of Public Safety has been made aware of an incident involving a Mississippi highway patrol officer making an arrest on a subject in McComb, MS,” said Bailey Martin, spokesperson for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Mississippi. “This incident is being reviewed internally by the Department of Public Safety. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is also investigating.
McComb Mayor Quordiniah Lockley urged patience as the inquest unfolds.
“I know many of you, like me, have watched the video of the Mississippi Highway Patrol Officer and Mr. Eugene Lewis. I am both alarmed and troubled,” Lockley said. “I ask you to let the investigation end but at the same time make your voice heard.”
Lockley said he contacted state Rep. Daryl Porter Jr. and asked him to intervene on behalf of the town of McComb since it was the Mississippi Highway Patrol, which falls under the state jurisdiction.
In a statement, Porter, Jr., a Summit Democrat, said the Public Safety Commissioner told him the incident was being investigated by Internal Affairs and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. .
Packer Lewis said his brothers were released from jail on Friday night, but he was held until Sunday night due to a past charge on his criminal record. He said he faced eight counts related to the incident, including obstruction of justice. It still processes Friday’s events several days later.
“I was a bit shocked because I saw this kind of activity on television. But I never thought I would be up to it. I never thought I would be part of something like this.
The incident happened less than a month after the firing of the police chief in Lexington, 210 kilometers north of McComb. The Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting said the Lexington police chief was filmed using racial slurs and talking about the number of people he killed in the line of duty.
Howard Henderson, director of the Center for Justice Research at Texas Southern University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the Lewis video showed “poor policing 101.”
“He obviously seems to have lost control of himself, and he almost looked like he was afraid of the gentleman recording. And because of that, he overreacted in the moment,” said Henderson.
Henderson said police departments should hire more black officers because they bring a different perspective to the job than their white colleagues.
A 2017 Pew Research survey of police officers found that 72% of white police officers, but less than half of all black police officers, view police killings of black people as “isolated incidents”, rather than ” signs of a wider problem between the two”.
These disparities breed mistrust, and mistrust breeds bad policing, Henderson said.
“Trust in the community is fundamental to successful policing. And it is only through police conduct that you can enhance community interactions and promote shared responsibility to fight crime and disorder” , Henderson said. “When that trust is broken, you destroy a police department’s ability to be effective in doing the job that society has said it needs to do.”
Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.