Law enforcement officers and 911 dispatchers are human beings, which means they don’t always make the right decisions. Unfortunately, a poor decision by people in these essential jobs can have tragic results. That’s what happened in the case of a Jackson woman who was brutally murdered nearly five years ago.
The woman’s family sued the city for her wrongful death. This month, they were awarded $1 million by a Hinds County jury.
According to the lawsuit brought by the children of the 67-year-old woman, their mother called 911 shortly before 2:30 a.m. on a July night in 2014 and reported that there was a prowler at her home. The 911 dispatcher notified the Jackson Police Department but didn’t keep the woman on the line or find out if the woman knew where the prowler was.
The plaintiffs said that when police officers came to the woman’s home, they knocked on her door and then left minutes later when they got no response. The police chief at the time publicly admitted that his officers hadn’t even looked around the property to see if they spotted the reported prowler. He said, “They should have made contact with [the woman] to make sure of her welfare. But they did not do that.”
Her body was discovered later that day behind her home by a member of her family. According to the coroner, she had been strangled, beaten and apparently sexually assaulted. She had also been shot in the face and suffered a broken neck.
The 33-year-old man who confessed to the crime told police he was at the home when the police officers came by and left. He’s still awaiting trial for capital murder amid questions about his mental capacity.
The assistant city attorney argued that the plaintiffs couldn’t show that any policies or the victim’s constitutional rights were violated. He claimed that the only person to blame was the woman’s killer. The jury disagreed.
One of the woman’s daughters said, “I hope this verdict sends a message that the city needs to get things right.” In a later statement, the family noted that their quest for justice isn’t yet complete as they await the trial of the confessed killer.
It’s not easy to take on powerful entities like cities. However, when people are harmed or worse because their employees fail to do their jobs, they can and should be held liable.