An officer-involved shooting has left Columbus residents with many questions and few answers.
Twenty-two-year-old Jequanta Harris was reportedly shot in his buttocks when he failed to comply to Columbus Police Department Officer James Hansen just after 12 a.m.Sunday morning. The shooting occurred in the 1700 block of Wheat St.
The CPD has yet to issue a formal press release on the matter, which has resulted in public confusion and media outlets releasing conflicting information. According to local television station WCBI, “The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics is investigating.”
In fact, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is handling the case.
Adding to the confusion, Wednesday’s edition of the Commercial Dispatch proclaimed “CPD Officer suspended after shooting.” As is CPD policy after any officer is involved in a shooting, Hansen was placed on administrative leave. He was not suspended.
When asked why the CPD has not issued a press release, Chief of Police Selvain McQueen responded, “Because we have not done any press releases. Y’all call and we’ll answer your questions. When people call, we give them what they ask for.”
Residents surrounding the area where the shooting took place have conflicting feelings over the incident. One resident, who asked not to be named, said, “This is just like the Trayvon thing. You heard about that in the news? This is just like that.”
His friend agreed. “I was asleep when I heard two shots, real quick. I don’t have anything against white police but why would you shoot someone who was unarmed? The police try to pull me over and I ain’t done nothing wrong, I’m gone run, too,” she said.
Her friend chimed in, saying that she knew Harris from their days at alternative school but “I hadn’t seen him really since then.”
The friend then agreed that she, too, would run from the police even if she was innocent because “they spook you.” However, she disagreed with the first neighbor’s feeling about the shooting being a racial issue. “I don’t think no police would just shoot somebody for no reason. Not unless he be trigger happy,” she said.
While information provided has been limited, the CPD has confirmed that Hansen pursued Harris because the green Honda Accord he was driving matched the description of a vehicle connected to a burglary earlier that evening.
A break-in occurred around midnight at 607 21st Avenue N. where the would-be burglars reportedly kicked in the back door. Witnesses called in the break-in and reported seeing a green Honda leave the scene. A Be On the Look Out for, or “BOLO”, was then issued for a green Honda Accord.
According to sources, Hansen was in the Sunflower parking lot on Military Rd. when he spotted the Honda at the intersection. Hansen pulled out of the parking lot and followed Harris onto Military Rd. The route the two took is still unclear but, according to CPD Public Information Officer Glenda Buckhalter, Harris “turned left onto Clover” before again turning onto Wheat St. [Wheat St. is located off of North Clover St. near 14th Ave N. and Railroad St.] Sources within the CPD say the vehicle came to a stop and an unknown male bailed out of the passenger side door, fleeing the scene on foot. Hansen then reportedly approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and Harris allegedly reached for a gun on the floorboard. Sources say Hansen ordered Harris to drop the weapon and when he did not comply, Hansen shot twice.
When paramedics arrived on scene, Harris was reportedly lying in front of the Honda’s passenger side door and the gun was in the floorboard of the car.
Sources claim that a substance that appeared to be marijuana was inside the vehicle in plain view, but CPD officers did not search the car because MBI was handling the case. The Honda was towed from the scene and taken to the Metro-Narcotics building where it sat until a search warrant could be obtained Monday morning. Once it was searched, nearly four pounds of marijuana was discovered in the car.
Harris was transported to Baptist-Memorial Hospital Golden Triangle and then airlifted to University Medical Center in Jackson. Sources with the CPD say he will be charged with possession of marijuana, more than a kilo when he is released from the hospital.
Harris has a lengthy history with law enforcement, having been arrested seven times since 2008. His prior charges include simple assault, domestic violence, possession of marijuana, driving under the influence and disorderly conduct.
The passenger of the vehicle’s whereabouts are still unknown.
In addition to the burglary on 21st St. N., a green Honda was also believed to have been involved in two prior weekend burglaries, one at a residence in Hunter’s Hollow behind Creekstone Chevron and another on 19th St. N.
Hansen is a patrolman with the CPD and has been with the department since June of 2010.
MBI is still investigating the incident.