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Transcript: Policing Jackson

The full episode transcript for Policing Zones


Into America

Policing Jackson

Latasha Smith: I've only been in Jackson not even a quite nine months.

Trymaine Lee: Oh, you just got to Jackson.

Smith: I just got to Jackson.

Lee: Wow.

I'm sitting with Latasha Smith outside of her apartment complex in Jackson, Mississippi. Latasha moved not too long ago from Rankin County, which is just east of here.

Smith: We had to move over here because, well, we couldn't find a house nowhere else and I'm a single mother raising two teenage daughters by myself. Yes, sir.

Lee: So was violence a concern for you at all?

Smith: No, not until I come to Jackson.

Lee: The two story complex is busy with kids coming home from school, residents getting off from work, and a bunch of people just chilling out. But on a winter night late last year, it was dead quiet.

Smith: That night on December 11th, me and my daughter, we were in the house and we were in the kitchen about 10:30 to 11 o'clock. We left out. She went in her room and I went in my room. About 30 minutes to 45 minutes, we did not hear nothing. The only time I heard something is when I heard that bang, bang, and I said, I've been shot, I've been shot. And blood was going everywhere, you know, it was coming out of my arm, going everywhere in the apartment.

Lee: Latasha had been shot in the arm while lying in her bed. She walked me to the side of her apartment so I can see where the bullets came crashing in.

Wait. So whose window is this?

Smith: This is my daughter's window right here, my daughter.

Lee: And so right here, these are bullet holes.

Smith: Those are the bullets. Those are two bullet holes, and then there's one right there.

Lee: Oh my goodness, that was close.

Smith: It was close.

Lee: The bullets tore through her 13-year-old daughter's wall, missing her child by inches. And the one that struck Latasha is still in her arm.

So where did the bullet actually come in?

Smith: The bullet came in right through here.

Lee: Latasha points to her tricep and then to her forearm and a noticeable knot, maybe the size of a marble under her skin.

Smith: And it's in here. It's right there. That's the bullet.

Lee: So after you were shot and you realized you were shot, what did you do?

Smith: I remember hitting the floor, then we got up and I came to the door, and I came and got my neighbor, I said, I've been shot, I've been shot. And as I was coming out, two Capitol police walking from this way. It was a white guy and a black guy. And I told that officer, I said, you shot me like that, and he turned around. They were between those trees right there. We were standing right here.

Lee: What made you, you know, think that they are the ones who shot you?

Smith: I didn't see no one else out. The only people were there was Capitol Police that night, and I've automatically seen them. They were walking from my apartment.

Lee: Officials later confirmed that an officer from the Capitol Police had opened fire into Latasha’s apartment complex, as he chased after car that he thought was stolen and unloaded on its fleeing occupants.

Were you aware at all of Capitol Police? Have you ever even heard of Capitol Police?

Smith: No, sir. Never ever heard of Capitol Police, never, until I got shot that night. Never.

Lee: For years, the Capitol Police functioned mostly as security for state buildings like the Capitol building in downtown Jackson. But Latasha’s apartment is in a residential neighborhood, some five miles away. So why were they here? The answer, according to officials, is a rise in violent crime. But there's also another reason, an overwhelmingly white state legislature that has systematically undermined the ability of one of America's blackest cities to govern itself.

Like a number of other cities across the country, gun violence has skyrocketed in Jackson over the past few years. The homicide rate almost doubled between 2019 and 2021. In fact, Jackson has the highest murder per capita rate of any major city in the country, higher than cities like Atlanta, New Orleans and Chicago.

The Jackson Police Department is chronically underfunded and understaffed, partly because the state limits how much Jackson can tax its residents. But at the same time, the Republican state government has accused the city of not doing enough to protect its citizens from crime. So after a record high in murders in 2020, 130 of them, the state legislature went to the law enforcement agency they control, the Capitol Police, and pumped up their budget. And with that extra money, the state expanded their force, their powers and their jurisdiction.

Suddenly, an agency, with little experience fighting crime, had a brand new street crimes unit, the kind given lots of leeway to do what they want. Officers started patrolling an area that was nearly nine square miles called the Capitol Complex Improvement District or the CCID. That area includes some of the city's whiter and wealthier parts, and other parts that are majority black and mostly poor with stubborn crime issues. But Latasha’s neighborhood isn't in the CCID at all.

Smith: And I'm like, you know, you shoot me. Why did you shoot in my apartment like this? You know, I felt like, what gave him the right to come in this community and shoot? You know, this is a black community and all these apartments were filled with people.

Lee: Did they give you answers? Have they been held accountable? What happened after they shot you?

Smith: They have not been held accountable. I have not heard anything from Capitol Police. Nothing, I have not, not one thing. No. The guy hasn’t shown --

Lee: They did not knock on the door? Not a bell? Nothing?

Smith: No, nothing. Nothing.

Lee: Capitol Police are part of the state's Department of Public Safety, which is overseen by a commissioner appointed by the governor, and they're not subject to the same accountability measures as the Jackson Police Department. For example, Capitol Police officers aren't required to wear body cameras as Jackson City Police are.

A small number of Capitol Police do wear body cams as part of a pilot program. And in fact, the officer who shot Latasha was wearing a camera, but they haven't released the footage. In general, the Capitol Police keep tight-lipped about their officer-involved shootings. And in the months since their jurisdiction expanded, they've made headlines for their aggressive tactics. In the last five months of 2022, Capitol Police officers shot four people.

Archival Recording: That represents more officer involved shootings than any other agency in the Jackson Metro, by far, possibly the entire state.

Lee: And one of the shootings by Capitol Police was fatal.

Archival Recording: One of those encounters turned deadly after 25-year-old Jaylen Lewis died of his injuries.

Archival Recording: It's an issue that has a councilman ready to take action and get answers for his residents.

Lee: But despite these concerns, Republican lawmakers who hold a supermajority in the state legislature, earlier this year, pushed to give Capitol Police even more power. They introduced two bills, one that would allow the agency to patrol the entire city. The other would create a brand new court system for crimes committed within the CCID, that area around downtown where Capitol Police hold primary jurisdiction.

Judges for that court would be appointed by the state Supreme Court's conservative white chief justice. It would essentially create an entirely new justice system within Jackson, a system that the city would have no control over, and the CCID would increase in size again starting in 2024.

Archival Recording: A new Mississippi bill is fueling controversy and protest in the state's Capitol.

Archival Recording: And I thought this is what y'all want? Y'all want Jackson to prosper.

Archival Recording: All I'm interested in is helping make the capital city of the state of Mississippi safer, and that’s it.

Archival Recording: Nobody white, black, green or blue will tell you there's not a crime problem in Jackson. They and us have got to get a handle on it.

Lee: But many of Jackson's black residents pushed back, saying the Capitol Police expansion and the new court system amount to a state government takeover.

Zakiya Summers: We could be really solving real problems, but we want to attack Jackson.

Archival Recording: Mississippi is at the threshold of repeating its past mistake of being consumed by racism, greed and the power to suppress the blacks in the city of Jackson.

Nsombi Lambright: Every time the legislature comes out with all of these assaults against the city of Jackson, the blackest city in the state of Mississippi, that is violence against our people.

Lee: Still, because of gerrymandering, the state government's legislative district lines have been drawn to heavily favor Republicans and to dilute black political power. So late last month, the two bills HB 1020 and SB 2343 passed with wide margins.

Latasha still recovering from being shot by Capital Police, understands the desire for more crime fighters in Jackson. The rise in community violence has touched her family, too, when someone shot her 25-year-old son. He survived, but barely.

Smith: My son was a victim of a crime, shot, paralyzed from the waist down. I'm having to take care of him.

Lee: So in a matter of two months, one family, you have a son who’s shot. You’re shot.

Smith: Yes, sir.

Lee: Does it feel, as a citizen, you're trapped between --

Smith: We are.

Lee: -- the street violence and the police violence?

Smith: We are. That's what I feel, like we're trapped. Because to me, you know, something needs to be did.

Lee: For her, expanding the Capitol Police is definitely not the answer. So Latasha is planning to get out of Jackson.

If the Capitol Police are expanded, you don't want to be here?

Smith: I do not. I do not want to live in the city of Jackson.

Lee: How long are you going to stay here?

Smith: No time, because I went today, after work, looking for a house to move in and get out of Jackson, Mississippi. I refuse to stay anywhere Capitol Police would be involved.

Lee: Are you concerned that other families will have to deal with what you're dealing with?

Smith: Yes, sir, I am. I wonder who are going to be their next victim. I wonder who the next victim is going to be.

Lee: Living in Jackson can feel like a series of crises, from a failing water infrastructure to corrupt state officials stealing public funds, and the fight over reproductive rights all tangled up in what many see as a state government that's straight up racist. And this latest fight over public safety cuts deep in this tight-knit city.

Archival Recording: I don't know if anyone or any community that says that they do not want additional police protection.

Archival Recording: I think we do need more police, but not more police that's running around reckless, but policemen that are invested in the community.

Archival Recording: Police are reactionary, you know, like they come after violence already occurred. I think we need to focus on the root cause of the violence.

Lee: I'm Trymaine Lee and this is “Into America”. Today, we head back to Jackson to hear perspectives from the people on what the expanded powers of the Capitol Police could mean for black Jackson. A mother who lost her son, a pastor concerned for his flock, a lawmaker trying to do right by his constituents, and a community leader trying to stop violence before it ever starts. They tell us their stories, what they think can be done to stop the violence on the street and from the police.

Arkela Lewis: My friend was like, they passed that bill, and I was like, what are you talking about? And she was like, Kela, they passed it. And yeah, so I just found that out.

Lee: Arkela Lewis was one of the people pushing against the legislation that expanded the role of the Capitol Police in Jackson, and her reason was personal.

Lewis: I kind of felt it was going to pass, in my heart, but I just thought maybe, you know, after Jaylen and the situation and what has happened to other people, you know, I just thought maybe.

Lee: Jaylen Lewis, Arkela’s son, was one of the four people shot by Capitol Police in the fall of 2022. He's the only one who died. Jaylen was just 25.

Lewis: He had a really good heart. He was my baby. My girls always said he was my favorite. He was my only son, so that was probably true. He really was a kind person. He would never meet a stranger. He was a lot like me in that sense. And this is what I always say, you're an old man, you have an old soul. And he did because he never met a stranger. Yeah, he was very loved.

Lee: Arkela moved out of the city to Atlanta, a few years ago, for her job, but she raised Jaylen and his sisters in Jackson. With rising crime in their hometown and the more opportunities in Atlanta, Arkela had been pushing Jaylen to join her.

Lewis: He was ready to leave. Mississippi was okay. He was tired of it and he said there was nothing there, not much to do there. I wanted him to come here. I've been pleading with him to come here. I'm coming, I'm coming. You know, he really wanted to go to California. We had gone on a trip and he loved California. This was the year that he was thinking about leaving, but he didn't get a chance.

Lee: In the early hours of September 25th, 2022, Arkela was getting ready to go to bed when she got the call that every parent dreads.

Lewis: I was on the phone with one of my daughters, somebody had told her that something had happened to Jaylen, that he had gotten shot.

Lee: Her daughter had heard from one of Jaylen's friends who told her what happened.

Lewis: She said that they noticed that they had been followed by an unmarked car, and the car didn't have their lights on. And this is like close to midnight.

Lee: Jaylen was scared and called a friend to say that someone was following him.

Lewis: When they came to a four-way stop, they noticed when they slowed down, that there was a police officer walking toward the truck with his gun drawn. He didn't identify himself and he didn't give Jaylen a chance to identify himself. She said it happened so fast, but she said Jaylen jumped and he said, it's police. And she said he kind of jumped back and the police officer shot him in his head.

Lee: Jaylen's friend began to scream for help.

Lewis: They came and they pulled her out, and they told her that she was lucky to be alive. She said when they pulled her out, she was still screaming, call the ambulance. She said when the ambulance got there, which was about 25 to 30 minutes later, she said once they got there, she noticed that the paramedics and the police officers were having conversation. He was just laying on a stretcher for the entire time that the paramedics was there. She said the paramedics had been there a while.

Lee: The intersection where this all went down is just a few minutes away from two different hospitals. But the first responders took so long that the friend said Jaylen didn't make it to an emergency room for 40 minutes. And from the beginning, Capitol Police officers made it clear they weren't going to be transparent about what happened.

Lewis: Also, my daughters came on the scene. My daughter tried to record. They tried to arrest my daughter for recording. They didn't take her to jail, but they did put her in handcuffs.

Lee: There's a basic summary report, but it doesn't offer much information, just that there was an officer-involved shooting following a traffic violation, that an investigation would occur.

Lewis: I was not contacted by the police. No one told me anything. No one called me or my family to say anything. They released the vehicle that my son was in two weeks after they shot and killed him.

Lee: Before they killed Jaylen, Arkela never thought about the Capital Police. She didn't even know they existed.

Lewis: My sister, she lived downtown, and I had no idea, never heard of Capital Police, just Jackson Police Department. And she said, oh, yeah, Kela, those are the police officers that they secure downtown like the Capitol building. Oh, maybe that's why I've never really paid any attention.

Lee: But Arkela quickly learned how the state government had recently expanded the Capitol Police force’s powers and that her son wasn't the only victim. And then she learned the state wanted to expand their reach even further.

Lewis: I couldn't believe it. We have all these incidents happening and you could have the nerve to expand the jurisdiction of this task force. I don't understand it. My mom said that she was driving and she saw, you know, Capitol Police and she got shook up. You know, my mom shouldn't have to feel that way, so it pisses me off. It makes me angry. Sad.

Lee: In March, through the pain of her loss, Arkela did what she could to speak out against the legislation, even testifying before the Mississippi House of Representatives. But in the end, it wasn't enough. The legislation passed and Arkela is mourning the sense of safety she once felt in Jackson.

Lewis: When I'm home, I'm really nervous. But I was just telling my mom not too long ago that I just remember not even having to worry about any of this and just feeling safe. Now, I don't.

Lee: It's one thing to be killed, but then for a family and a community not to get any answers. What do you think is driving that kind of barrier between the community and this new expanding force?

Dwayne Pickett: They don't have to, right? They're not answerable to the mayor who looks like us. They're not answerable to the structure inside of our community. They're only answerable to the governor who's proven that he doesn't care about Jackson. And so, they have no reason in their minds to have to respect black and brown citizens.

Lee: Bishop Dwayne Pickett is the pastor at New Jerusalem Church in Jackson, where he oversees a congregation of over 7,000 people.

Pickett: Married, five boys, two daughter-in-laws, five granddaughters and one grandson on the way.

Lee: That's a big family.

Pickett: Man, they're coming on with it.

Lee: While sitting in the church's sanctuary, Dr. Pickett told me that the controversy over the Capitol Police has affected him personally. His son Dwayne Jr. was best friends with Jaylen. And just a few months ago, Dwayne Jr. had his own chilling run-in with Capitol Police.

Pickett: So my son, he pulled to the gas station, not bothering anyone, and he got out of his car, and the Capitol Police and a bunch of officers were already there. And he said they told him to turn his music down. He’s walking back into the store and the guy just attacks him, pushing him against the door real hard, throws him on the car, puts him in handcuffs.

Lee: Dwayne Jr. said the officer took him to a dark parking lot, had him take a breathalyzer and kept him there until a supervisor made the officer take him home.

Pickett: My son said he was still in handcuffs, not under arrest. He put him at the back of the car, didn’t put him no seatbelt on. He said he must have drove 100 miles an hour through the city, running red lights, throwing him around in the car, taking him to his apartment.

Lee: And just like what happened with Arkela and Latasha, the Capitol Police have released next to no information about the incident.

And so, what did your congregants feel about the Capitol Police before this expansion?

Pickett: They didn't know Capitol Police existed, right? They might see them as they're going into the Capitol for some business. But other than that, they literally were security guards. That was it.

Lee: Didn't have any real interaction with them?

Pickett: No real interaction at all. No real police force. But once they got commissioned as a police force and they formed what was called the Flex unit, everybody knew.

Lee: These Flex units emerged when the state government gave Capitol Police more and more powers. They quickly developed a reputation for being overly aggressive and not understanding the communities they were policing.

Pickett: Because when they came in, they came in like a fire and kicking in doors, jumping on people. I mean, it was unbelievable.

Lee: So now, after the state voted to increase the powers of the Capitol Police, Dr. Pickett is worried. But that's not the only thing that has him concerned, there's also that new court system that will serve the Capitol Complex Improvement District, with its judges not elected by the people of Jackson, but appointed by the white chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Pickett: And so they've taken the police force. They've taken the judges. They've taken the tax base to use it as their own, and that means now that they have control and you have taxation without representation. I call it really a form of apartheid.

Lee: You mentioned that word apartheid. How much do you think race has to do with all this?

Smith: I think race has everything to do with it. I think as much as in 2023, I don't want that to be the case. I don't want to feel that way. I'm a disabled vet. I fought for my country. I went to the schools, all the things that we're supposed to do right. But to see this in 2023 and that it’s brought forward by a guy whose district is two and a half hours from here. So what it says to me is that, man, it's based on race. It's certainly not based on the safety and security of the residents that are in this city.

Lee: If the community in Jackson, the black community especially, doesn't need more police, what do they need?

Pickett: Well, I think we do need more police, but not more police that's running around reckless, policemen that are invested in the community. There's no question that we need help and want help, but it has to be the right kind of help. So when people come in with their own ideas of how they're going to fix it, you're dealing with police officers that never policed in an urban environment. They're afraid, so their first thought is to shoot, is to kill. I mean, I just think there's a lack of care. They don't care. And I believe if it was in their neighborhoods, the whole push would be different. But they don't have to, they have no reason to.

Lee: When we come back, a state representative from Jackson who tried to make this legislation better for his constituents, and how community activists are taking anti-violence work into their own hands. Stick with us.

Lee: HB 1020, the bill that expands the boundaries of the Capitol Complex Improvement District and sets up the new judicial system within that district was immediately controversial.

Earle Banks: Well, my initial concern is why is this bill being brought by someone who lives almost 200 miles away from the capital city of Jackson and why is it being brought with no discussion?

Lee: Earle Banks is in a difficult position. He served as a member of Mississippi's House of Representatives for more than three decades. But as a Democrat who represents a majority black district in Jackson, his voice has been largely hushed. That's because Mississippi's Republican-led legislature has gerrymandered the districts to peg most of the state's black people into fewer districts.

Banks: And they pack the white district with Republicans, with white folks that were going to vote for Republicans.

Lee: But when a white Republican introduced HB 1020 and Jackson residents rose up against it, Representative Banks knew he had to do everything he could to make the bill better for his constituents. So Representative Banks took a seat on a conference committee set up to reconcile the two different versions of the bill, the one in the Senate and the one in the House. Banks was the only Democrat, the only black person, and the only Jackson resident on the committee.

Banks: It was a nightmare of the bill to start it with. It was an ugly caterpillar. We were hoping that we could get it to change into a butterfly. But in the end, it still did not look like I wanted it to look.

Lee: Rep Banks has a slew of issues with the bill. One, he says the new court system for the CCID is unconstitutional under state law.

Banks: Mississippi has a constitutional provision that says all judges shall be elected. All chancery judges, circuit judges, Supreme Court judges shall be elected. That means they can't be appointed.

Lee: Judges have a huge amount of power in this system. They can be the difference between community service and time in prison. And with these judges set to be appointed by the state's chief justice, currently a conservative white man, black folks in Jackson are worried about how the law will be applied to them.

Another concern Representative Banks had was the new expanded boundaries of the CCID and the Capital Police's jurisdiction, which are set to take effect next year. But unlike a lot of the people we spoke with, Banks says he was worried the new boundaries were too small and didn't include enough black neighborhoods.

Banks: The expanded CCID district that the Capitol Police would be serving was going to be mostly in Northeast Jackson, and that is still mostly a predominantly white area, which they need protection to. But then most of the crime that we're seeing is black on black crime in the other parts of the city. So I saw a significant difference in the protection that was being offered in the bill between Northeast Jackson and West Jackson and South Jackson.

Lee: We talked to folks who say, you know, violence is a problem here in Jackson, but they argue that more police probably isn't the answer. But it sounds like you're saying that the city of Jackson actually needs more police.

Banks: I don't know of anyone or any community that says that they do not want additional police protection. That's what I've heard the cry from people that I represent and people all over the city of Jack, they do want additional police protection, not just in Northeast Jackson. We need protection more in West Jackson and in South Jackson, which are more of a hotbed of crime that we see within the city.

Lee: The final version ended up with slightly different boundaries that include some lower income, mostly black areas of Jackson. Representative Banks is quick to point out some of the protections in HB 1020 for residents who are worried about the Capitol Police.

Banks: These Capitol Police officers, as required in HB 1020 that they must wear body cam. They must wear body cam. We want proper training of these officers. No one wants bad officers.

Lee: The body camera requirement, however, is contingent on funding. But how do you assuage the concerns of people who don't like any of this? The idea of more police, there's a different police force, the judges, they're really concerned about this. What do you say to them?

Banks: Well, I say to them that I try to do what I could to lessen the blow, to lessen the hurt to the people of Jackson because, you know, you have to be at the table. I heard Al Sharpton say some years ago at a conference we attended for black legislators that, you know, you have those that need to be outside protesting and fussing about it and making points about it, and they need to have legislators and people inside at the table to try to negotiate the best deal.

So we tried to negotiate the best deal we could, with the time that we had, with the resources that we had, for the city of Jackson. But when it falls short, it falls short. And like I say, it fell short and that's why I continue to vote against House Bill 1020. On the three chances I had to vote against it, I voted against it all three times.

Lee: So what's next in this? I mean, you didn't like this bill. You didn't like the way it was handled. But here it is, signed into law. What's next for folks like you who don't appreciate this, any of it?

Banks: Well, the next thing for us to do on a day-to-day basis is live with it. And the next thing I want to do is get advocates who are against this bill is we got to go to court on it. And there are people in the background who are working on those things and I'm happy to support them in any way I can.

Lee: And in fact, there's a legal fight brewing driven by the NAACP who plans to file a lawsuit challenging the legislation.

Derrick Johnson: If we allow the erosion of our rights in the treatment of second class citizens, 2023 will be no different than 1950 for black people in the state of Mississippi.

Lee: Derrick Johnson is the president of the NAACP and currently lives in Jackson.

Johnson: And what's most unique about what they're seeking to do, they're only imposing this on the city of Jackson. No other jurisdiction in the state of Mississippi will have this type of oversight and taking of local authority. That is a direct violation of equal protection.

Lee: While lawmakers and legal activists work on their next move to oppose the new legislation, others are out in the community, deep in the streets, take matters into their own hands, and they don't think police are part of the solution.

So if you let politicians tell it, they'll say this move is about safety. They want to make sure people can move about Jackson safely. Is this about safety to you? Do you think that Jackson will be a safer place to live and work because of the expansion of the police?

Terun Moore: Uh-uh, no way.

Lee: I saw his funny face. It's almost funny.

Moore: It is funny. It's comical that you're going to tell us this was going to help us be more safer, more police. We ain't seeing that.

Lee: I met Terun Moore outside of Sykes Park Community Center. He's a community leader here in his hometown, and he doesn't hold back when it comes to talking about the Capitol Police.

Moore: You know, you ain't want to put this money into Jackson Police Department or the Sheriff's Department. You wanted to bring in an outside entity to police the people of Jackson, some people who don't know these people. We don't even know where they came from. But they’re here in our city, really like they’re occupying the city, really like a takeover. They're saying, well, you take the water first and then you take the land. You know, that's how we feel about it.

Lee: Terun knows that there's a crime problem in the city. A long time ago, he was part of it. When he was just 17-years-old, Terun shot and killed someone during a botched robbery. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. But in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that this punishment was unconstitutional for juveniles, so Terun got a second chance.

Moore: I did 19 years in prison. You know, I had life without parole. And so, that helped me realize like the thing I was taking for granted really was the thing that was most important. And if I ever got a chance to come home again, I wanted to be able to help the kids going down the path I was going down.

Lee: So he created Strong Arms in Mississippi, with another formerly incarcerated person. It's a credible messenger program which takes people like Terun who've committed crimes in the past and trains them to help young people avoid those same pitfalls.

Moore: I don't think police is the answer to anything. Police are reactionary, you know, like they come after violence already occurred. I think we need to focus on the root causes of violence, all the underlying issues, and work on concert to fix them. You know what I mean? Like poverty, lack of resource, lack of jobs. Instead of investing in police, I'm saying invest in the community.

Lee: So I know you're engaging with people in the community every single day, young people in particular. And as a credible messenger, you're going in communities to try to disrupt some of the violence. Talk to us about real examples of what that work actually looks like.

Moore: So we had a couple of situations where young kids that we know like on Instagram, beefing with each other, just learn not to take it lightly. And we had a couple of sit-downs, where we got this group of youngsters to meet with this group of youngsters, got their parents involved, you know, had to sit down and try to see what the situation was. Somebody had shot somebody. Somebody had grazed somebody's mother. And, you know, it was at the point where we're like every night they're going back and forth.

And so we were able to bring them in there and sit them down. And it was a couple of us, you know, credible messengers who had similar stories, who had done shootings or whatever before, too, and just try to get them to the space where, man, let it go. They let it go. You know what I mean? We didn't think they would, but they ended up letting it go, and that was one time that we diffused that situation.

Lee: And that's something that the police can't do, don't have the wherewithal or desire to do, getting these young people that have beef, get them together.

Moore: They're not going to come together for the police.

Lee: So what is it like for you to come here every day, knowing that you're providing young people with a safe space?

Moore: Man, it’s a great feeling, you know, coming from where I come from, to be able to be home and be doing this work in the community, and to be embraced by the community, and for the kids to be looking for me every day. Like last week, we were in Rolling Fork, helping with the tornado victims. And Sunday, I came to hoop and one of the kids was like, where have you been? It's been a while. We've been missing you all week.

Lee: That must feel good.

Moore: It feels good, man. Like anytime I'm gone for a while and they see me, like, well, where have you been at, bro?

Lee: Yeah.

Moore: And like, just knowing I'm impacting their life, it's a really good feeling, man, to wake up to.

Lee: We reached out to both Capitol Police and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety for this story. We asked about Latasha’s case and the case of Jaylen Lewis. They told us that since both are ongoing investigations, they wouldn't comment.

And we wanted to know how the Capitol Police are planning to address community concerns that the department is overly aggressive. They did not make anyone available for an interview in time for our podcast deadline, but said they would speak to me for an upcoming TV package later in the week. So if there are any updates, we'll put them in the show notes. Plans to further expand the Capitol Police and establish the new court system are set to go into effect later this year.

Before we go, we wanted to end this episode with some amazing news out of Jackson. The last time we came to the city, it was for our HBCU series on The Power of the Black Vote. Last fall, as thousands of residents were left without water in the face of a state that refused to help, we told the story of how citizens in Jackson were standing up. One of those people was Maisie Brown, an activist, organizer, and third year student at Jackson State University.

Maisie Brown: And I started literally from like a Twitter thread of just different places that you can donate to different organizations that are doing the work. And then also within 48 hours, we had about $5,000 on Cash App. We had people calling from all over saying, I'm trying to send you a truck of water, like $250 love from Brooklyn, love from L.A., you know, different things like that that really show that people cared about things. So within that first week, I think now it's over 300 households, we've delivered at least 1,500 to 2,000 cases of water. And we're not stopping.

Lee: Last week, Maisie was named a Truman Scholar, the first in Jackson State's history. The prestigious scholarship is for students who want to pursue a career in public service and have shown outstanding leadership on their campus. Truman Scholars get to spend the summer in Washington, D.C., and receive up to $30,000 toward their tuition. Big shout-out to Maisie. Congratulations. You deserve it.

You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the handle @intoamericapod, or you can tweet me @trymainelee. That's @trymainelee, my full name. And if you want to write to us, our email is That was intoamerica@nbc and the letters If you love the show, help spread the word. You can do that by rating and reviewing “Into America” on Apple podcasts or wherever you're listening right now.

For more on this story about Capitol Police in Jackson, check out the reporting from our colleagues on the digital side, Bracey Harris and Jon Schuppe. We'll put a link to their great work in the show notes. And big shout-out to them for all their support as we put together this episode.

“Into America” is produced by Isabel Angell, Allison Bailey, Mike Brown, Aaron Dalton and Max Jacobs. Original music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Aisha Turner. Production help from Stefanie Cargill, Beth Weiss and Mark Weiss. I'm Trymaine Lee. We'll see you next Thursday.