Why is the U.S. Department of justice not investigating this 21st century Civil Rights Crime or better yet, human rights crime? Maybe if the family of Billey Joe Johnson had an open casket, and Jet Magazine had a copy of the photo in its magazine people would have been outraged. Yes, maybe a public funeral service with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing would have worked. But that didn't happen, there was not tens of thousands attending Billey Joe Johnson's funeral or viewing his casket and images of his mutilated body were not published in black magazines, black blogs and black newspapers. No, no rallying black support and white sympathy across the US for Billey Joe Johnson.
OK, well act like this picture is a picture of Billey Joe Johnson and not Emitt Till. But it's not 1955, this happened, yes, again in Mississippi in 2009.
This gruesome photo of Emmett Till helped spark the civil rights movement. It demonstrated the brutality of southern violence towards African-Americans, and created outrage across the nation. Emmett's mother, Mamie, insisted at his funeral that he be given an open-casket, so others could see what they had done to her boy.
Photo Courtesy of the Chicago Defender
Today in Lucedale, Mississippi, hundreds of concerned citizens and community advocates rallied at the George County Courthouse to echo calls for the Department of Justice to bring charges in the death of Billey Joe Johnson, Jr.
You remember the case of Billey Joe Johnson, Jr. REWIND Feb 13, 2009, I reported about the case of Billy Joe Johnson on this blog. Here is what I reported back in 2009:
Billy Joe Johnson - A Foul Play? The Killing of Billy Joe Johnson in Mississippi
You remember the story about Billy Joe Johnson, star running back for George County High, Mississippi, who died on a December morning in deep Mississippi alleged by a "self-inflicted" gunshot wound during a traffic stop.
Johnson, hailing from Jackson, Miss., rushed for more than 1,500 yards his last season, totaling over 4,000 for his career, and received scholarship offers from a number of major schools including Alabama, LSU and Mississippi as a top-rated recruit by both Scout and Rivals.
Johnson died of a (possibly self-inflicted) gun wound early Monday after being pulled by a sheriff's deputy. (UPDATE: The NCAAP, in an independent investigation, has ruled out suicide as the cause of death.)
It's not clear why 17-year-old Billey Joe Johnson was stopped in Lucedale, but authorities say the junior tailback shot himself with a shotgun after the deputy walked back to the patrol car to run a license check.The last portion of that quote is particularly perplexing, because it is hard to believe that Johnson would have attempted to pull a shotgun on police officers ...although equally confounding is the notion that Johnson would kill himself at what, according to all current reports, appears to be a basic traffic stop.
"The deputy was sitting in his patrol vehicle ... when he heard a gunshot and saw the victim laying on the ground by the driver's side door of the vehicle that Johnson was driving. A shotgun was lying on the victim," according to a statement from the George County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities would not immediately say whether they believed the shooting was a suicide or an accident.
Nothing is ever certain, but this story appears to be so odd, at least in the manner of death, that it would be even more shocking if further details didn't at least emerge as to why the young man apparently panicked and pulled a gun that resulted in the tragic and early end to his life. More MORE
Billey Joe Johnson Sr. has a difficult time accepting the police department’s explanation of his son’s death. “They must have tortured my baby,” he says.
|4:30 a.m. – Billey Joe Johnson Sr. hears his son showering and preparing to leave the family’s Benndale, Miss. residence. He believes his son plans to go hunting before heading to school.|
|5:34 a.m. – George County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Sullivan witnesses Billey Joe Johnson’s maroon Chevy Silverado run a red light at the corner of Church Street and Winter Street. He pursues the truck with his blue lights flashing and witnesses the truck running a stop sign at the 4-way stop of Winter Street and Old Highway 63.|
|5:37 a.m. – The Lucedale Police Department receives a 911 call from Esther Parker, who says her daughter called her and informed her that someone was attempting to break into a trailer where her daughter and ex-husband were living. Parker informs the LPD that her daughter is home alone.|
|5:39 a.m. – After a pursuit of nearly 1½ miles, Sheriff’s Deputy Sullivan witnesses the truck pulling into a service entrance near Benndale Carpet. Billey Joe Johnson exits the truck and informs Deputy Sullivan that he was on the way home “because his mother was sick”. Deputy Sullivan takes his license and instructs Johnson to return to his vehicle.|
|5:40 a.m. – While attempting to call in the license number, Deputy Sullivan informs dispatch that Johnson has shot himself and requests assistance.|
|5:40 a.m. – LPD Sgt. James O’Neal arrives at the trailer and secures the perimeter. He makes contact with Parker’s daughter, who informs him that the person who attempted to enter the residence was Billey Joe Johnson Jr. She says Johnson left before police arrived, but that she would like to go to the police station and “sign charges” against him.|
|5:48 a.m. – LPD Sgt. O’Neal departs for the police department, following Parker and her daughter in a separate vehicle. While in transit, he is informed by dispatch that Johnson had shot himself at service road near Benndale Carpet.|
|5:50 a.m. – LPD Sgt. O’Neal arrives at Benndale Carpet, where he observes the vehicle of deputy Sullivan as well as Johnson’s maroon Silverado, which is parked with the door open. As he pulls forward to make room for the pending arrival of an ambulance, O’Neal observes Johnson lying on his back on the ground, with his head pointed away from the open door of vehicle. Sgt. O’Neal observes a shotgun on top of Johnson’s body, and blood on the ground around his head.|
|5:55 a.m. – Paramedics arrive on scene. Dispatch is informed that Johnson is DOA.|
Community members are renewing their efforts because Johnson’s death and subsequent investigations leave more questions than answers. Given the long history of corruption and cover-ups in George County law enforcement, many community members feel law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office colluded to execute a wide spread cover-up. Community members also point to what they call a pattern of racial profiling and the use of fear and intimidation on behalf of law enforcement. “Law enforcement’s investigation left a lot of holes and many of us believe there was foul play. Because of the amount of discrimination we experience every day, we have little faith in the local justice system,” said Mr. Bobby Perryman of Immaculate Heart Community Development Corporation.
Johnson’s family calls on the Lucedale community to come forward with information about the case and believe many have stayed quiet for fear of retribution or being shunned by friends and family members. “Nobody wants to tell on their neighbor, but the fact is that a young man was killed and his family and this community need closure,” said Pastor Garrett of Prince Garrett Ministries. George County is a very small community and is still very segregated. A few large families and their extended networks own most of the businesses and play influential roles in city and county government. George County, where the incident occurred, is 89% white with very few Black residents. “We know there are good folks in George County who have knowledge about the incident. We know you are afraid but we need you to come forward. Black or white - none of us are free when there is a suspicion of murder,” Garrett added.
“We are tired of the corruption, the cover-ups and the abuse we suffer at the hands of police,” said Ms. Lucy Wilson, President of the Human Rights Taskforce of George County. The Human Rights Taskforce is one of key local organizations calling for the event. It was established as a result of the travesty of justice felt by many around the Johnson case as well as growing tensions between the Black community and law enforcement. The event is co- sponsored by George County Human Rights Taskforce, Immaculate Heart Community Development Corporation, George County NAACP, and American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.
Caravans of concerned citizens traveled from Atlanta, Jackson, Mobile and New Orleans. Speakers at the event include Ms. Nsombi Lambright, Executive Director of the ACLU-MS, Ms. Lucy Wilson, President of the George County Human Rights Taskforce and a spokesperson for Billey Joe Johnson, Jr.’s family.
AAP says: I'm glad the family is taking a stand. Don't you think it's time America did? It's time for the Justice Department to get involved. That's my thought. Write the U.S. Attorney General and President Barack Obama, and let them both know how you feel.