• July 19, 2024

‘Never Be the Same’: Mississippi Woman Shot In the Head As Initially ‘Compliant’ Driver Tried to ‘Escape Constant Firing of Bullets’ from Police, Files Lawsuit

A Black passenger who was shot in the head by members of the Capitol Police in Jackson, Mississippi, during a traffic stop has filed a federal lawsuit. The excessive force complaint was filed in the U.S. Southern District of Mississippi on Dec. 20.

According to the lawsuit, Sherita Harris was shot in the head on Aug. 14, 2022, after Officers Michael Rhinewalt and Jeffery Walker shot into the vehicle she was riding in near State Street / Highway 51 in downtown Jackson.

Sherita Harris
Sherita Harris was shot in the head by officers from the Mississippi Capital Police Department on August 14, 2022. (Photo: 16 WAPT News Jackson screenshot / YouTube)

Harris and the driver of the vehicle were at a traffic light near the intersection of State and Amite when Rhinewalt and Walker pulled up behind them in a police cruiser.

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After the light turned green, Walker “immediately” turned on the emergency lights of the cruiser as he demanded the vehicle pull over, according to the complaint.

The claim further states that after the driver complied and pulled over, Rhinewalt began shooting into the vehicle in short order, prompting the driver to try to flee.

“The vehicle complied with Defendant Walker’s commands,” Harris’ attorneys say. “Shortly thereafter, Defendant Rhinewalt began to shoot into the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle attempted to drive away from Defendants Walker and Rhinewalt to escape the constant firing of bullets.”

After the driver noticed that Harris was “slumped over in the passenger seat” and had “suffered a bullet wound to the head,” he got out of the vehicle when it came to a stop and ran while holding his cellphone, attorneys say.

According to the Sun Herald, Rhinewalt and Walker claimed that they pulled over the vehicle for running the light, and the driver fled as the officers exited the police cruiser.

Walker and Rhinewalt would further claim that during their pursuit they heard gunshots coming from the fleeing vehicle, which crashed into a curb while being shot at.

The officers also shot the driver of the vehicle as he ran after the crash, claiming that they saw a “black object in his hands” before discovering it was a cellphone after he was arrested. No weapon was found at the scene.

However, Rhinewalt and Walker claimed later in a court hearing that the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation recovered a weapon elsewhere. The driver was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Harris was not charged.

Harris was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where surgeons removed bullet fragments from her head. More than one year after the shooting, Harris still suffers with her “speech, gait and cognitive abilities.” Harris says she is unable to care for her small children following the shooting and will “never be the same.”

“I don’t think any amount of compensation will help me be me,” said Harris at a press conference through tears. “Nobody even tried to check on me or say anything to me, so it don’t feel like I even matter at all, so I just try to keep going … it just breaks me down.”

Harris is being represented by the Carlos Moore Law Group, and Moore is calling for an investigation into the case by federal prosecutors.

The lawsuit names the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, the Mississippi Capitol Police Department, Walker and Rhinewalt as Plaintiffs and is seeking $3 million in compensatory damages.

The lawsuit also requests attorney’s fees, court costs and punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to punish individual Defendants for the intentional, malicious, callous, bad faith, willful, wanton, and reckless misconduct” that will deter the Defendants “from future extreme and excessive behavior.”

Walker and Rhinewalt were cleared to return to duty while the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office reviewed the case.

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