JACKSON, Miss (AP) — A 25-year-old Mississippi man has died after a shooting involving a special police unit.
Jaylen Lewis was shot during an encounter Sunday night with officers of Mississippi's Capitol Police force. The Capitol Police is a unit of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, the state agency that oversees law enforcement.
In a news release, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said it is investigating the incident and will share its findings with the Attorney General’s Office.
At a community meeting Tuesday evening regarding Jackson's water crisis and other issues, pastor Dwayne Pickett said Lewis was close friends with one of his sons. Pickett said he spoke to an officer who was at the scene of the shooting. He also said he spoke to a man who was in the car with Lewis.
Pickett said he was told Lewis was shot in the head through the windshield of a car. The pastor, who said he is supportive of police officers, referred to the Capitol Police as a “cowboy type group of guys" that were hired from a neighboring county.
“Some of the officers were rejected from other places,” Pickett said. "It’s a vigilante group. And there’s open season on our people.”
The Capitol Police Department became an entity of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety in 2021. “The goal here is to create a safer capital city,” Sean Tindell, Public Safety Commissioner, said at the time. The force initially patrolled areas around state government buildings. It has expanded its patrol to some other neighborhoods near downtown Jackson.
In September, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said it was investigating what was the fourth shooting involving the Capitol Police in Jackson since July 1, the Clarion Ledger reported. The agency told the newspaper that none of the shootings had resulted in deaths.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is a division of the Department of Public Safety.
At the community meeting Tuesday, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said he wasn’t familiar with the facts of the case. He echoed Pickett's criticism of the force.
“At least a couple of officers that did not have stellar reputations within (the Jackson Police Department), and more than likely wouldn’t be welcomed back to JPD, are now on a force which has the ability to patrol your streets," Lumumba said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to questions about Sunday’s shooting or the Capitol Police.
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.