By Alice Thomas-Tisdale
JA Publisher Emerita
On November 20, 2023, the day before what would have been Dexter Alex Wade’s 38th birthday, members of his family and a community of friends came together at New Horizon Church International in Jackson, MS to “gift” him a proper funeral service and burial. The Jackson resident was located in a pauper’s grave August 24, 2023, over six months after his death, although there is proof his identity should have been known to authorities.
Civil rights icon Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy. “I came here for two reasons,” Sharpton told the mourners. “I wanted to give words of comfort to the family, but I wanted to give words of discomfort to the state of Mississippi. I want the City of Jackson and the police to find discomfort. What happened to Dexter is a disgrace, a national outrage, and it should be treated as such.”
Before taking his seat, Rev. Sharpton made a promise to the Wade family. “You will receive justice. Soon is goin’ get ‘em. Soon the guilty will be charged.”
Sharpton was referring to circumstances surrounding Wade being fatally struck by an off duty Jackson police officer driving a police vehicle on March 5, 2023, and the subsequent botched investigation.
Within days of not hearing from her son, Bettersten Wade called the police department asking for help to find him. For more than a week, her calls netted zero results. On March 14, she put her phone down and filed a missing person report on behalf of Dexter’s two daughters, Johnelle and Jaselyn Thomas.
Jackson authorities are still holding to their initial statement that Wade was killed accidentally while crossing I-55 and they were unable to identify him, justifying there was no police misconduct and they were correct in continuing to tell the coroner’s office no one had called to claim the body.
Countering the city’s position is the fact that Wade’s wallet was in the front pocket of the jeans he was wearing that contained his state identification card with his home address, his credit card, and a health insurance card.
Wade was buried several months later in a field near the Hinds County Penal Farm next to a horse stable. However, Bettersten wouldn’t find out her son was dead and buried in an unmarked grave until this fall, at which point she paid a $250 fee to reclaim his body.
Further anguish for the Wade family occurred earlier this month when they arrived at the field for a prayer vigil before his body was to be exhumed. However, authorities had already removed his remains, which according to a later independent autopsy showed an advanced state of decomposition because the mangled body had not been embalmed.
The nation’s highest profiled civil rights attorney, Ben Crump, who is representing Wade’s family, delivered a national call to action during the ceremony at New Horizon. He and Rev. Sharpton have called on the Department of Justice to investigate the Jackson Police Department. Last week, Rev. Sharpton sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland to formally request an investigation into the police department’s actions.
In a bittersweet moment at the memorial, Wade’s mother tearfully exclaimed, “You’re finally home, son,” a sentiment shared by his father, Walter Wade Jr.; siblings, Latonya Moore and Amberia Wade; two daughters; other relatives and friends. Finding Dexter and laying him to rest is not the end of this story. The Wade family is committed to pursuing justice in yet another atrocity in Mississippi.
Jackson Councilman Kenneth I. Stokes proclaimed November 20, 2023, as Dexter Alex Wade Day in the City of Jackson. Wade was a product of the Jackson Public School District, finishing at Jim Hill High School. He was owner and operator of Dex Roofing, LLC and also an active member of his community.