Laurel man files civil rights complaint against fired officers, city

Wade Robertston pictured here with Laurel Police Chief Tyrone Stewart was hired back in May 2016. (Photo Source: WDAM)
Wade Robertston pictured here with Laurel Police Chief Tyrone Stewart was hired back in May 2016. (Photo Source: WDAM)
Before joining LPD, Bryce Gilbert worked for the Ellisville Police Department from April 2017 to September 2017. (Photo Source: Ellisville Police Dept.)
Before joining LPD, Bryce Gilbert worked for the Ellisville Police Department from April 2017 to September 2017. (Photo Source: Ellisville Police Dept.)

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Just three days after two police officers with the Laurel Police Department were fired for allegations of police brutality, a complaint was filed. Attorney Dow Yoder filed a complaint for civil rights violations and damages on behalf of 36-year-old James Barnett, who alleges the officers brutally beat him after fleeing from a checkpoint in Jasper County on May 16.

Court documents show that officers Bryce Gilbert and Wade Robertson followed a vehicle operated by Barnett outside of the jurisdiction of Laurel, Mississippi in Jones County. It goes on to say that based on the instructions of Robertson and Gilbert, Barnett "placed himself face down on the ground" just moments before he was "brutally assaulted and publicly tortured" on the side of the road.

Although Barnett admitted he was wrong for leading officers on a chase under the belief had a warrant, he told WDAM-TV in a previous interview that his actions didn't warrant getting beat by police.

"The consequences of defendants' policies, training and orders were intended and manifested as overt acts and/or omissions in furtherance of an unlawful conspiracy to achieve certain objectives in diminishing, adversely effecting, limiting or violating the civil rights, privileges and immunities of Mr. Barnett and citizens in Mr. Barnett's protected class under the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983; Title 42, United States Code, Section 1985 (3); and Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962 (c) with racial animus, bias and prejudice."

WDAM-TV previously reported that Robertson graduated from the South Regional Public Safety Institute and was in the Laurel Police Department field training program when he was hired back in May 2016. Bryce Gilbert worked for the Ellisville Police Department prior to joining LPD. He also used to serve in the United States Army.

"Defendants intended to teach Mr. Barnett a lesson by convicting him without a lawful hearing, trial, due process or protection of the equal law. In addition, defendants exercised their discretion of sentencing Mr. Barnett to a traumatic and repeated beating and public torture by executing that sentence outside of a courtroom and their lawful jurisdiction---- beside a ditch, in Jasper County, Mississippi."

The complaint, which is against the City of Laurel; (Mayor) Johnny Magee, Laurel Police Chief Tyrone Stewart, Bryce Gilbert and Wade Robertson, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and DOES 1-100, demands that Barnett have the right to a jury trial.

"Mr. Barnett respectfully re-alleges that and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1 through 132 of this complaint and respectfully demands a jury trial and that the court instruct the jury on the proper elements and instructions of law in accord with any claims the court may allow Mr. Barnett to fairly prosecute."

In the 56-page document, it says that employees at South Central Regional Medical Center "authorized a wrongful medical discharge of Mr. Barnett, so that he would be transported and incarcerated without medical care at the Jones County Detention Center.

"Upon limited information and belief, and subject to a review of Mr. Barnett's medical records and consultations with qualified experts, one or more employees or individuals associated with South Central Regional Medical Center breached the national standard of care and/or federal law by failing to properly evaluate, diagnose, admit, treat, transport or discharge Mr. Barnett."

In the complaint, Barnett states he believes video footage of the encounter was subsequently destroyed.

"Upon limited information and belief, Mr. Barnett believes his horrific assault, humiliation, battery, trial, execution of sentence and torture by Laurel policemen in Jasper County was recorded from multiple sources, including video and/or audio systems owned, operated and controlled by defendants. Upon information and belief, Mr. Barnett believes some evidence of his rural Jasper County trial and execution sentence by torture was intentionally destroyed by defendants to justify their unlawful actions and inactions."

During a May 21 press conference with the mayor and the Laurel Police Department, WDAM-TV asked for body cam footage. But, due to it being an ongoing investigation were not given access to that information.

Barnett was charged with resisting arrest, which he says he pleaded guilty to during his initial court appearance and plans to fight during his next court appearance on June 11.

WDAM-TV reached out to Barnett and Yoder, but did not hear back from either one by press time.

Read the full complaint here: