The family of a Black man is calling for a federal investigation into his death after local authorities in Mississippi said they did not suspect foul play after the man’s body was found dismembered. Police say his wounds may have been caused by an animal.
Rasheem Carter, 25, called his mother for help in early October, telling her that a group of White men in three trucks were chasing him and yelling racial slurs at him in Laurel, Miss., his mother, Tiffany Carter, said at a Monday news conference in Jackson.
His remains were found in the woods roughly 20 miles away outside of Taylorsville, Miss., on Nov. 2, after he had been missing for about a month.
The Smith County, Miss., Sheriff’s Office said the next day that it had “no reason to believe foul play was involved” in Carter’s killing and that the investigation is ongoing.
Carter’s family and civil rights attorney Ben Crump criticized authorities Monday over the investigation in what Crump said appears to be a hate crime. Crump noted Carter’s autopsy, completed Feb. 2, found that his head was severed from his body and other body parts were in different locations.
He called Carter’s death “a nefarious act, an evil act” and urged the Justice Department to take over the investigation as a civil rights case.
“Somebody murdered Rasheem Carter, and we cannot let them get away with this,” Crump said at a news conference. “There is nothing natural about this. It screams out for justice. What we have is a Mississippi lynching.”
Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston told The Washington Post on Tuesday that he welcomed the Justice Department to get involved in the investigation, saying, “There is nothing to be swept under the rug or hidden in that nature.” Houston, whose department has overseen the investigation into Carter’s death, told the Vicksburg Daily in November that Carter did not indicate to authorities that he was in danger when he arrived at the Taylorsville Police Department after he called his mother. Houston told The Post that “there’s no evidence to substantiate any” of Carter’s family’s claims that he was murdered.
“There’s no indication that someone killed him,” Houston said. “The evidence we do have does coincide with what animals would do to a body.”
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Bailey Martin told The Post that the agency is assisting in the case but that she could not comment further on the investigation. An FBI spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An agency spokesperson told NBC News that the agency is not involved in the case.
Carlos Moore, an attorney representing Carter’s family, told The Post that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division confirmed to him that the case is now on its radar.
“This is the most heinous crime in Mississippi in my lifetime,” Moore said.
While it remains unclear whether Carter’s death was a hate crime, his killing has opened old wounds regarding racially motivated deaths in Mississippi. From 1877 to 1950, more than 4,000 Black men, women and children were lynched in cities and towns across the country, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization based in Montgomery, Ala. During that period, Mississippi recorded 581, the highest number of lynchings recorded by a state. [Continue reading…]