James Barnett (WDAM)

Ex-officer in Jasper beating says actions were lawful

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Laurel police deny LL-C  request for body-cam,  dash-cam videos

One of two officers accused in the beating of a Jasper County man said he acted in good faith as an officer of the law with a “reasonable belief” that his actions were lawful.

Bryce Gilbert

The answer is contained in a 28-page response from Gilbert, a fired LPD officer. He and officer Wade Robertson are accused of chasing James Demetrius Barnett after he fled an LPD checkpoint in north Laurel.

The chase continued into Jasper County, where the two officers stopped Barnett.

According to the complaint filed in Federal District Court in Hattiesburg, the officers beat and kicked him, causing severe injuries to his face and body. The complaint further says that the officers kicked him with steel-toe booths.

Barnett is suing the officers for violating his civil rights.

Gilbert’s answer, filed July 3, says that the officer was in fear of “serious physical harm” to either himself or Robertson. 

Gilbert’s suit said by fleeing the checkpoint, officers had a reasonable suspicion that the occupant of the car might have weapons, since he was trying to evade the checkpoint.

Gilbert also said the force that was used was warranted and believed Barnett was guilty of some violation, as his seventh affirmative defense reads, “only the guilty flee when no one pursueth.”

In Gilbert’s paragraph-by-paragraph answer to the charges, he only admits that Barnett fled the scene, exited his vehicle in Jasper County and put himself on the ground and that law enforcement and paramedics came to the scene.

Gilbert denies the vast majority of the rest of Barnett’s suit. He is represented by Thomas L. Tullos of Bay Springs.

The Laurel Leader-Call filed a Freedom of Information Act request for body-cam and dash-cam video from the night of the beating, but it was denied because of an “ongoing investigation.” Neither of the ex-officers has been charges as of yet.

In 2017, the LL-C filed FOIA’s for body-cam footage from Lt. Shannon Caraway at the scene of the Windermere shooting involving Greg Burroughs and his girlfriend Katherine Sinclair.

That request was denied by District Attorney Tony Buckley because the footage was evidence in the potential case against Burroughs. He is awaiting trial in August for manslaughter in the shooting death of Sinclair in June 2017.

The LL-C also filed an FOIA for the incident reports on the night of the shooting. More than 75 percent of the reports were redacted on Buckely’s orders.

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