A Mississippi man beaten by an off-duty police officer while driving a squad car, buried without his family’s knowledge, then exhumed without his loved ones present, had ID on him, despite claims which he did not have, a family lawyer said Thursday following an independent autopsy.
Dexter Wade’s family has expressed outrage that they were not contacted or informed of his death, and city officials defended the lack of contact by saying they did not immediately know Wade’s identity because he did not carry any identification. But independent autopsy results refute the city’s claims by saying Wade, 37, actually had ID on him and the family could have been quickly notified.
Wade’s body was “completely crushed” by the patrol vehicle, with multiple blunt force injuries to his skull, ribs and pelvis, and his left leg was amputated, the civil rights and personal injury attorney said Ben Crump. He cited the findings of pathologist Frank Peretti, hired by the family. The body was also in an “advanced state of decomposition” and had not been embalmed, Crump said.
A wallet in the front pocket of his jeans contained his state ID card with his home address, as well as his credit card and health insurance card, Crump said.
“The fact that Dexter had a national ID card and several other identifying features shows us that there was a concerted effort to hide the truth and circumstances of his death from his family,” Crump said. “There is no excuse, not even incompetence, for not informing a next of kin of the death of an identified male.”
A full autopsy report is expected soon.
The mayor previously said no ID was found
On March 5, an off-duty Jackson officer driving a police SUV struck and killed Wade as he crossed Interstate 55. Wade’s mother quickly filed a missing person’s report, but did not I was not informed of what had happened until months later. NBC News reported that police knew Wade’s name and that of his mother, but were unable to contact her, leaving his body unclaimed for months at the county morgue.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said last month that Wade was “without identification” but noted that a coroner later identified him by fingerprints and a bottle of medicine on his prescription he had with him.
“The accident was investigated and it was determined that it was indeed an accident and there was no malicious intent,” Lumumba said.
He added that Bettersten had not been contacted because “there was a lack of communication with the missing persons unit, the coroner’s office and the accident investigation,” and called him a “unfortunate and tragic incident”.
Crump said the coroner contacted a medical clinic for information about Wade’s next of kin, but was unable to get in touch with his mother, Bettersten Wade. He showed a report indicating that between March and July, the coroner’s office called Jackson police seven times to see if they had made contact with the next of kin, to which the department responded no.
A Jackson city spokesperson said Wade’s body remained in the custody of Hinds County from the time a coroner arrived at the crash scene. He said the authority to examine, bury and exhume lies with the county, not the city.
The Hinds County Coroner’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Body exhumed without family present
Wade’s body was exhumed Monday following calls from the family and Crump for an independent autopsy and funeral.
Bettersten Wade was informed by county officials last week that the exhumation would begin at 11:30 a.m., but when she arrived, accompanied by community advocates and members of the media, authorities had exhumed her body by 8 a.m. morning, a few hours before the scheduled time and without noticing, Crump said.
“Dexter, a young black man, was buried with no more dignity and respect than an animal, which no human being deserves. This case has shown us time and time again that local authorities cannot be trusted in this matter and that there are clear conflicts of interest,” Crump said. “Now, stronger than ever, we renew our calls for the Department of Justice to investigate all local entities involved in Dexter’s death and what his mother suspects was a cover-up.”
Contributor: Charlie Drape, USA TODAY Network
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