Citizen claims child was stuck by police officer, investigation underway

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tuesday’s Picayune City Council meeting appeared on track as a short one, until citizens addressed the council about several complaints.

Regular business included two grants accepted without discussion and eight properties declared nuisances because they were overgrown with weeds and trees or were run down. The council set a public hearing to discuss the nuisance properties and also approved Fire Chief Keith Brown to travel to Dallas, Texas to attend a fire chief’s conference in August.

Shannon Keys was the first citizen to express her concerns, which dealt with the arrest of a family member on Blanks Avenue. During the arrest, several residents used cell phones to video the incident, Keys told the council. An officer at the scene allegedly told those recording the arrest to stop and to give their names to officers, Keys said.

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Then, the wife of the person being arrested tossed her house keys towards her child so the child could go inside, Keys said, but keys fell to the ground. When the child bent down to pick them up, the officer allegedly struck the child in the neck, allegedly causing injury, making the child fearful of police. The officer also allegedly refused to apologize to the child, Keys told the council.

City Attorney Nathan Farmer interrupted Keys about half way through her presentation, asking her not to use the term “plaintiff” as that was a legal term for use when a suit has been filed. He asked that she use the term “complainant” instead.

Farmer also warned council members not to discuss the incident in open session since it had the potential to become a matter of litigation.

Pinero, following Keys complaint, told her that an investigation was already underway and told her and others attending the meeting that the best way to handle complaints is to fill out a form at the Criminal Justice Center.

Council member Larry Breland said constituents told him complaint forms were unavailable when they went to file grievances and other constituents said they were discouraged from filing complaints at the police station.

Breland asked if the forms could be made available at City Hall.

Pinero said they are, or will be, available on the city’s new website. Luke said complaints can be directed to his office, where they can also acquire forms and file them. He also asked anyone at the council meeting who had video of the incident, or witnessed it, to contact his administrative assistant, Kris Landrum. He asks anyone with a copy of a recording of the incident who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, or anyone who witnessed it, to call 601-798-9770 and dial the city manager’s office where they could give their name and phone number to be contacted for the investigation.

Luke said he wants the investigation to be quick and thorough and told council members he hopes to be able to give them a report by their next meeting.

The next complaint was from Allen Walker of Lew’s Sweet Shop located at 3 Liberty Rd. He said he was approached by the city’s Code Enforcement Officer, Tom Milar, about advertising flags he had in front of his business. Walker said he felt as if his business was being singled out since he has seen similar signs elsewhere, especially at larger businesses.

Pinero told Walker he is not the only business owner who has been approached about signage that violates the city’s new sign ordinance. Pinero said he has received several similar complaints, including some from large corporations, about the city’s sign enforcement. He said Milar is doing his job without discrimination. Pinero also said the ordinance may need some “tweaking” and he and other business owners would be notified when meetings are scheduled to do so.

Fr. Jon Filkins, who headed up a citizens’ committee that helped write the new sign ordinance, noted there was ample publicity when the effort was initially taking place. He pointed out, with support from Pinero, that the sign ordinance was part of the city’s effort to make itself more attractive to potential new residents and businesses.

The final complaint came from Coronda Alexander of the Goodyear Community. She asked that ditches be cleaned out in the area.

Her concerns were turned over to the Public Works Department.

The council then recessed until Tuesday, July 15.