Miss. Teen Was Chased, Fatally Hit By Police Car on Walk Home, Family Says, as They Plead for Body-Camera Video

Kadarius Smith, 17, died March 21. His family is asking for the body-camera footage depicting the police cruiser’s fatal impact

<p>Courtesy of Ben Crump Law</p> Kadarius Smith

Courtesy of Ben Crump Law

Kadarius Smith

Kadarius Smith, 17, was walking home with friends when a Mississippi police cruiser sped up behind him and “began chasing him,” according to a press release from civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing the teenager’s family.

Running him over from behind in the early morning hours of March 21, the cruiser left tire marks across his back, according to Kadarius’s mother who is cited in the release. The 17-year-old later died of his injuries.

“This tragedy should have never happened and the officers involved must be held accountable,” Crump said in the statement. “It is unconscionable that an officer would fatally run over a teenager who was running away from them.”

<p>ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty</p> Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump


Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump

Crump called for the immediate termination of the Leland police officer driving the cruiser — who has not been publicly identified — and publicly asked that the “unedited video footage” of the incident be released to the teenager’s family.

“Kadarius’ family deserves accountability and answers as to how and why he was killed by an officer in such an inhumane way,” Crump added.

The police officer driving the cruiser involved in Kadarius’s death remains employed by the Leland Police Department, Edward J. Bogen, Jr., the lawyer representing the city of Leland, Miss., and its police force confirmed in a phone interview with PEOPLE Thursday morning.

<p>Courtesy of Ben Crump Law</p> Kadarius Smith

Courtesy of Ben Crump Law

Kadarius Smith

The officer – whose name and position Bogen said he did not know – has been placed on administrative leave, pending an independent investigation by the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, according to the city’s lawyer, who said the police department “immediately referred” the case to the other law enforcement entities for review. (The officer's race has not been publicly released.)

“The description of the alleged facts as stated by Mr. Crump is about as far from the truth – from what I have been told – as occurred that night,” says Bogen, who declined to provide specific facts countering the allegations against the officer driving the cruiser, repeatedly citing the ongoing investigation throughout the interview.

“But the allegation that he was simply walking home with friends — that’s just not true,” Bogen says, adding: “All I can say is that the police department was responding to a call that night.”

Asked again for a detailed account of what occurred in the early morning hours of March 21, Bogen said: “I think it would be best – because what I know is based on what I’ve been told, which is nothing but hearsay – I’d rather rely on the independent investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.”

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Crump has previously represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Martin Lee Anderson — all Black teenagers who died in high-profile, officer-involved incidents across the country.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Crump – who has additionally represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – wrote that Kadarius’s family had retained him “to hopefully gain answers & accountability for this young man’s death!”

<p>Google Maps</p> Leland Police Department

Google Maps

Leland Police Department

Kadarius’s death – which occurred near Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and Huddleston Street in Leland, Miss., less than a two-hour drive from the state’s capital – follows a recent string of high-profile police brutality cases in Mississippi.

Last week, six White former law enforcement officers who called themselves the “Goon Squad” were sentenced in the racially-motivated attack of two Black men in Braxton, Miss. Former Rankin County sheriff’s deputy Hunter Elward – who shot Michael Jenkins in the mouth, nearly severing his tongue – was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for the January 2023 incident, which, per a federal complaint obtained by PEOPLE, began after a neighbor complained about Black men staying at a White woman’s house.

Related: Mississippi 'Goon Squad' Officer Sentenced to 20 Years for Torture of 2 Black Men

In a separate incident earlier this month, a former police officer in nearby Pearl, Miss., pleaded guilty in a case in which he forced a detainee to “lick” up his own urine.

The Department of Justice is also now investigating Mississippi’s Lexington Police Department in order to, per an email describing the line of inquiry, “assess the use of force; discriminatory policing; stops, searches, and arrests; and potential violations of the right to engage in protected speech and conduct.”

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