There are more questions than answers following a police shooting in Mississippi that left a 15-year-old Black boy dead as eyewitnesses are contradicting the narrative provided by law enforcement.
Jaheim McMillan was taken off life support on Saturday, more than two days after a Gulfport police officer gunned him down because he was allegedly armed. McMillan was one of five young teens in a car that was reported to have threatened drivers by waving guns when police arrived outside of a local Family Dollar store on Thursday. The police presence prompted two people in the car to flee, leaving behind McMillan and two others. Everybody can agree on that much.
But what happened next is under heavy dispute as police claim one thing while eyewitnesses say something completely different.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Gulfport Police Chief Adam Cooper said “McMillan was armed” and did not comply with orders to drop a gun.
“McMillan turned both his body and his weapon toward the officer,” Cooper continued. “The officer fired at McMillan,” striking the teenager.
Police claim they found at least one other gun in the waistband of another teen in the car.
Cooper said McMillan was taken to a hospital with “a single gunshot wound” but neither mentioned that he was shot in the head nor the fact that he had died as a result of the police shooting.
McMillan’s mother is one of an apparently growing number of people disputing the police narrative. While she wasn’t there, she says she saw a video on social media with an alleged witness claiming that not only did McMillan comply but he also was not armed when he was shot. Reports claim he was simply holding a McDonald’s bag and some keys.
“He came out the dollar store with his hands up, and they shot him in the head,” Katrina Mateen told local news outlet WVUE on the same day her son was shot. “And then I’m hearing that he seen them… He was sitting in the car and he seen the police pull up with guns, so he got out the car and ran in the store- well, tried to run in the store- and they shot him in the head. The video I seen on Facebook is basically, the man is saying that my son didn’t do anything. He had his hands up, so why did y’all shoot him?”
Mateen said that police handcuffed her when she arrived to the scene on Thursday and forced her away.
The mother of another teen in the car expressed a similar sentiment. She said her son claims McMillan was unarmed when he was shot.
Mary Spivery said she asked her son, Kyion Bell, why the police shot McMillan.
“He was like, ‘Mama, Jaheim did not have a gun,’” Spivery told WLOX.
A video showing another alleged witness claiming McMillian wasn’t armed.
“I saw the cop shoot the guy,” an unidentified woman says on the video. When asked if McMillan was armed, the woman replied, “I did not see a gun on him.” She went on to say that McMillan “was coming out of the store with his hands up” when he was shot.
Local news outlet WDAM reported that other residents suggested the police were lying.
“No one held up a weapon at a police officer,” Katrina Campbell told WDAM. “They are making up stories to save their behinds.”
Cooper said the Gulfport Police Department would be investigating itself. He said he turned over all “evidence,” including dashcam and bodycam footage, to the Mississippi attorney general’s office.
It was not immediately clear when or if the video footage would be made public.
A community vigil was held for McMillan on Monday amid ongoing protests.
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