Mississippi Cops Shot a 15-Year-Old in the Head. Four Months Later, They Haven’t Released The Video.

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Some witnesses said Jaheim McMillan had his hands up.

Outside a Family Dollar store in Gulfport, Mississippi, a stream of cars enter a parking lot. It is early February, a Saturday, but no one is here to shop. 

Katrina Mateen, 41, stands with her back toward the store’s entrance, where a cluster of teddy bears, fake flowers, and tea candles sit in the sun. The belongings, faded from weeks of winter weather, are a makeshift memorial for her son Jaheim McMillan, who was shot in the head by police outside the store last October, when he was just 15 years old.

There are a lot of questions about the killing. The Gulfport police say McMillan turned toward officers after they instructed him to drop a weapon. But witnesses say he was unarmed when an officer shot him, and that he went several minutes without medical care as blood poured from his head. “I did not see a gun on him,” Deborah Stout, an Uber driver who witnessed the shooting, said in a video posted on Facebook. “He was coming out of the store with his hands up.”

Four months later, amid conflicting accounts, the city still has not released body-cam footage of the incident or even named the officer who pulled the trigger. McMillan’s family and supporters have no way to determine what actually happened. “It’s been agonizing” to go so long without the information, Mateen tells me. “For them not to release it to the public, like they should, it lets me know they’re trying to hide something.”

The protest comes about a week after people around the country watched body-cam videos of officers in another city, Memphis, killing a 29-year-old Black motorist, Tyre Nichols. Though officers initially claimed Nichols reached for one of their weapons during a “confrontation,” the footage did not bear that out. Instead, it showed them unnecessarily beating, tasing, and pepper-spraying him as he repeatedly called out for his mother and at times seemed on the verge of losing consciousness. The Memphis police department released the video of his beating within a month and promptly fired several of the involved officers, at least five of whom are now charged with murder.

In Gulfport, the protesters have come from surrounding states to demand similar transparency. Some of them point out that most of the officers in Memphis were Black, and that white officers often don’t face the same punishments. “If those [Memphis] officers were white, we’d still be demanding they release the tapes, like we’re here demanding for Jaheim,” says Bianca Austin, whose niece Breonna Taylor was killed by police in a botched raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020.

Austin has been offering emotional support to McMillan’s mother for months since the shooting outside the Family Dollar, traveling to Mississippi alongside her fiance, Cortez Rice, from Minneapolis. “We need that same accountability across the nation,” Rice says. “For all stolen lives.”

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