Lawrence County court hearing against three teens who claim police abuse reset for June 19

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Lawrence County Courthouse (Monticello)

The court hearing for three teen-aged female Lawrence County High School students originally scheduled for April 17 has been changed to June 19, according to NAACP officials in that county.

The three students attended a February 2 high school basketball game before stopping at a local store to change seats in their vehicle when they allegedly were cursed at and at least one of them thrown to the ground before being arrested by a Monticello police officer who was assisted by a local fireman. The arresting officer reportedly approached the car driven by the teenagers because a taillight was not working. 

The teenagers faced multiple charges including assault on an officer and resistance and were originally scheduled to appear in Monticello City Court on April 17.

The 17-year-old owner of the car that was stopped by the police officer on February 2 said she and her friend who was driving were in the act of switching drivers when the police officer appeared on the scene. She reports:

“I came from the back seat to get in the driver’s seat,” she said in her complaint filed with the Lawrence County Branch NAACP. “(My friend) walked to the other side of the car. Before we could do that, out of nowhere, a police officer appeared. The officer jumped out of his vehicle aggressively and hollered at us by saying, ‘(You’re) under arrest, get behind the car now!’ He walked towards me, grabs my wrist hard. And as I proceeded to back up from him because he scared me, hollering at us using profanity, I began to panic, so I raised my arms to protect my face and body. 

“He forcibly picks me up and slams me to the ground, then he put his knee into my back aggressively and I remember him kicking me in my back. I was screaming to my friends to tell them to call my Mama. I heard both of my friends kept asking him, ‘What did we do? We are minors, call our parents.’ He did not listen to us. He just put his handcuffs on me first and then my friend.” 

The fireman on the scene allegedly put handcuffs on the third teenager.

“About 30 minutes later, my parents arrived. I heard one of the police officers say to my father as I was sitting in the (police) truck, ‘If you don’t shut up, I will take you to jail.’ After twenty to thirty minutes later, he released me into my parents’ custody.” 

The 17-year-old says that in the following days, Monticello police officers paid frequent visits to her workplace, causing her to feel intimidated and harassed. 

Finally, she was charged, on February 12, 10 days after the parking lot clash, two officers came to her job and arrested her. She spent four hours in jail while her parents and community leaders protested her arrest and the authorities released her on her own recognizance. She was charged and arraigned before Monticello City Judge Albert Turnage the next day, February 13.

Lawrence County NAACP President Cynthia Bryant said The NAACP was instrumental in helping to bring attention to the case.

“The young women have their own attorney,” Bryant said. “The NAACP is not doing anything regarding the city or the police officers at this time.”

The three students reportedly hired Hattiesburg Attorney Vanessa Jones to handle their defense. Monday, Attorney Jones’ office confirmed the new court date of June 19 for the Monticello City Court.

Thaddeus Edmonson, the legal redress chairman for the Lawrence County NAACP, said he thought it was “outrageous” for a male police officer to engage in such violent action against young females.

“That’s absurd to know that people will violate your civil rights, violate your human rights, and everything to try to be Mister Tough Guy,” he said. “There was no cause for that. He could have easily told her, ‘your lights were not on. You need to turn your lights on.’ You don’t often get a felony charge for your lights not being on. That’s crazy.”

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Lawrence County court hearing against three teens who claim police abuse reset for June 19

By Earnest McBride
April 29, 2024