Suit alleging Laurel officer shot handcuffed man settled

Court records show the settlement was reached on Friday, Oct. 15. The specifics of the...
Court records show the settlement was reached on Friday, Oct. 15. The specifics of the settlement were not released.(WDAM 7)
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 3:54 PM CDT
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LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - A federal lawsuit filed against the City of Laurel and Laurel Police Department over an officer-involved shooting was dismissed last week after a settlement was reached.

Court records show the settlement was reached on Friday, Oct. 15. The specifics of the settlement were not released.

The original complaint was filed in August 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Eastern Division by two Jones County men, Mekail Thomas and Ereaon Smith.

The lawsuit alleges Thomas and Smith were leaving work around midnight on May 31, 2019, when they encountered a Laurel police “safety checkpoint.”

According to the complaint, Thomas, who was driving his vehicle, gave officers his valid Mississippi driver’s license and proof of insurance. The complaint also said both Thomas and Smith were wearing their seat belts and that the vehicle had a current tag and was “in proper running order.”

The suit alleges Thomas and Smith were ordered out of the vehicle before being searched and arrested without explanation.

The complaint alleges an officer then used a Taser on Thomas, who was handcuffed and not resisting. Thomas fell to the ground and was stunned again with a Taser as he verbally protested and attempted to crawl away.

Thomas and Smith claim an officer shot Thomas in the back as Thomas began to crawl into the roadway. According to the lawsuit, the bullet passed through Thomas’ body and passed “within fractions of an inch of his spine.”

According to the complaint, Thomas was treated at a hospital and eventually released without being charged. Smith was held in jail for five hours before also being released without charges.

The lawsuit claims Thomas has been paralyzed in his right leg since being released from the hospital and is unable to work.

Thomas claimed the officers acted with intentional negligence and outrageous conduct as well as gross negligence as well as the Laurel Police Department and the City of Laurel.

The counts listed in the complaint included failure to properly train and supervise law enforcement officers, negligent hiring, retention and failure to discipline or take corrective action, battery, assault, civil conspiracy, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest/imprisonment and deprivation of civil rights.

Thomas and Smith requested damages for permanent emotional injury, pain and suffering, economic damages, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress and mental anguish, as well as court costs and all damages they are entitled to by law, including compensatory and punitive damages.

WDAM reached out to the City of Laurel and the Laurel Police Department for a statement on the settlement. Both declined to comment.

A lawsuit represents only one side of a legal argument, and a settlement is not an admission of guilt.

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