Two Laurel police officers have been terminated from the department following an internal investigation into allegations of police brutality.
LPD Capt. Tommy Cox and Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee held a news conference Monday morning to address the allegations made by 36-year-old James Barnett, who claims the officers repeatedly kicked him in the face.
Barnett said the encounter started when he turned around from a police checkpoint in Laurel during the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 16. Barnett led officers on a high-speed chase from Laurel to Heidelberg, about 20 miles away.
Barnett admitted he was wrong for running from the officers but said he didn’t deserve what happened next.
“As I was getting out, they had their guns drawn on me telling me to get out with my hands out and get on the ground,” Barnett said of the two LPD officers. “So, I laid flat on the ground, face down (and) they came up continuously kicking me in my face.”
Barnett said he feels the attack was racially motivated, and he feared for his life at the hands of the officers.
He also claims the harassment didn’t stop on the side of the road. Barnett said the officers continued to taunt him after he was taken to a hospital for treatment.
“I (was) nervous, because I’m thinking it’s going to be the end of my life in there,” he said describing moments laying in the hospital bed surrounded by six officers. “So, I played like I was sleep--- my eyes closed.”
According to Cox, LPD’s internal investigation was launched just hours after the incident.
“It became apparent to the supervisors on duty that there was a problem with the manner in which the arrest occurred,” said Cox. “It has always been the policy of LPD that all use of force events are reviewed by several levels of supervisors and administration.”
Cox said the investigation concluded the following day and the two officers in question were subsequently fired.
“We have handled the situation as we do. It’s said that police can’t police themselves, but in certain instances, they can, and this is evidence of that,” Magee said.
According to Cox, LPD has been in contact with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to look into the possibility of criminal charges against the officers. Cox said LPD is cooperating fully with that investigation.
Cox said the names of the officers, body camera and dash camera footage will not be released at this time because of the ongoing investigation.
Barnett is still recovering from his injuries. He claims he was beaten so badly, he is currently unable to work and has to have surgery on his eye.
Barnett was charged with resisting arrest, which he says he pleaded guilty to during his initial court appearance. He said he plans to fight that charge in court on June 11.