The American Civil Liberties Union Mississippi chapter has released a statement on the death of Jonathan Sanders, the 39-year-old Black man who was killed during an encounter with the police. The organization stated:
“The ACLU-MS would like to extend our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Jonathan Sanders. Unfortunately this case is not an isolated incident. Far too many Black men die every year in police encounters, and many more are seriously injured. People of color are disproportionately affected by excessive use of force at the hands of the police.
“At this time we join the community in Stonewall, Mississippi in noting the importance of increased training for police on excessive use of force and transparency in police practices, especially in regards to interactions with communities of color.
“We support the Sanders family and call for complete police transparency and a thorough independent investigation into the death of Jonathan Sanders. We expect that in the aftermath of this horrible injustice, local law enforcement will fully respect the rights of the community to engage in peaceful assembly, prayer, and protest as they mourn this loss.”
The latest details on the case reveal that Kevin Herrington, the police officer who killed Sanders on July 8 in Stonewall, MS had allegedly uttered the words, “I’m gonna get that n****r,” before tackling him to the ground and subduing him in a chokehold. Sanders had approached Herrington and another White man as they were having altercation at a gas station. Eyewitnesses say that Herrington then followed Sanders in his car as Sanders was chasing after his horse that was startled by Herrington’s police car lights.
When Sanders later got back onto his horse, Herrington pulled Sanders off by tugging the headlight on his head and continued to pull it around his neck. Herrington then proceeded to hold Sanders in a chokehold. Herrington refused to let go when confronted by onlookers and kept Sanders locked in his arms for approximately 20 minutes. Herrington claimed that Sanders had drawn a gun; it was later found that Sanders was unarmed.
The local District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell would not comment on the case at first but held a town hall meeting on Tuesday with Police Chief Mike Street to inform the public more on the investigation process. Herrington has yet to be arrested for the encounter. An autopsy has been conducted, but the results have not been publicized. Sanders’ body was returned to the family and the FBI is reportedly “offering support” in the matter. The case will be presented to a Clarke County grand jury as early as September.
A march was held over the weekend in honor of the victim. Over 400 attended the peaceful protests; Stonewall only has 1,500 residents. Sanders’ funeral took place on Saturday. He trained horses and was often seen riding in a horse-drawn buggy around town. While gathering to celebrate his life, one mourner said:
“We’re just trying to get justice. It’s not about Black or White. It’s just about right and wrong and trying to get Clarke County together as one.”