UPDATED: 5:25 p.m. ET
The body of a Black man killed by an off-duty police officer in Mississippi’s capital city and buried without his family being notified of the death was dug up by local officials hours ahead of a planned exhumation on Monday morning when the family was supposed to be present, his mother and her attorney said.
Dexter Wade, 37, was set to be exhumed more than eight months after he was first reported missing. The county broke a reported “promise” that the family could witness the exhumation, Wade’s mother said. Her lawyer claims it’s all proof that Hiunds County is engaging in a “coverup,” WAPT reported.
The exhumation was scheduled to take place at 11:30 a.m. at the Hinds County Penal Farm in the city of Raymond, but it had already taken place at 8 a.m., well before any of Wade’s family arrived, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said. He suggested that was “evidence” of malfeasance.
“This is further evidence of a coverup,” Crump said about the pre-emptive exhumation. “Like a thief in the night, they came and took the body out of the ground.”
In a statement sent to NewsOne, Crump said Monday’s developments have left Wade’s mother “with more questions and even more trauma”:
“Since the day that Dexter Wade was struck and killed by a Jackson Police Department cruiser, the truth and facts of this case have been heavily obscured. Dexter’s mother did not know what happened to her son for months, even after her tireless efforts and multiple requests to officials to help her, and long after he had been identified. Justice delayed is justice denied, and we will keep fighting for justice in Dexter’s name until his mother gets the closure she deserves.”
Wade’s mother said this is now two times that the county has lied to her about her son.
“They put him in the ground without my permission. They dug him up without my permission — I want that to be known,” Bettersten Wade Robinson said during a press conference.
WAPT reported that Wade’s body “will be returned to his family,” but it was unclear when that would happen and why the county conducted the exhumation without Wade’s family.
An autopsy was originally expected to follow the family’s exhumation.
The Hinds County Board of Supervisors voted last week to authorize the exhumation of Wade’s body after receiving a petition for it to take place.
Official funeral details for Wade were not immediately announced.
A GoFundMe account created nearly a month ago by Wade’s mother Bettersten Wade to raise money to help pay for her son’s funeral and autopsy has only raised a little more than $14,000 of its $100,000 goal.
“Dexter deserved so much more than being buried in a pauper field grave for the unknown,” Bettersten Wade wrote on the GoFundMe page. “He was a beloved son, father, nephew, and community member who deserved to be treated with love and care and given a proper resting place. Thank you so much for supporting this effort and my family as we deal with the trauma the police have caused us.”
According to NBC News, Bettersten Wade last saw her son on March 5.
A week later, she reported him missing to the Jackson police and then followed up for months. She called missing persons investigators seeking information on numerous occasions, posted appeals on Facebook, searched abandoned houses and asked neighbors for help.
On Aug. 24, a Jackson accident investigator told Bettersten Wade about her son’s death, more than six months after she reported him missing the first time. The accident investigator told her Wade had died the night he left home, struck by a police cruiser while crossing a nearby highway, which was later confirmed by the Hinds County coroner’s office.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Dexter Wade’s death and the subsequent lack of communication with his family “honestly was an unfortunate and tragic accident.”
“It is tragic to lose your child,” Lumumba said during his annual State of the City speech late last month. “It is tragic to suffer the consequences of having to bury your child before you pass. But to add insult to that trauma, it is even more difficult to not have the ability to have a proper burial for your child. And for that, we regret a circumstance that Mr. Wade’s family has had to deal with.”
Bettersten Wade and Crump have accused the Jackson Police Department of having a vendetta against her family because of a 2019 case where Bettersten Wade’s 62-year-old brother died after a Jackson officer slammed him to the ground. The officer involved was convicted of manslaughter but is appealing the verdict.
“It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Crump said. “That’s why people all over America are talking about what happened to Dexter Wade in Jackson, Mississippi. We are asking for the Department of Justice to investigate this matter because the family does not have trust in the Mississippi officials. Would you after this happened to your brother and child?”
Crump has called for a Department of Justice investigation into the death.
To donate to Dexter Wade’s GoFundMe account, click here.
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