(JACKSON, Miss.) — The family of Dexter Wade is calling for justice after the 37-year-old man was allegedly fatally struck by a Jackson, Mississippi Police Department cruiser in March and later buried in a potter’s field without his family knowing.
“My son — I never thought in a million years that he would leave me,” Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade Robinson, said in a tearful press conference Monday in Jackson. “He was my oldest son and I wouldn’t have never thought this’d happened to him.”
Wade Robinson reported her son missing on March 14, nine days after she had last heard from him on March 5. She didn’t learn until Aug. 24 — more than five months after his death – that Dexter Wade had been struck and killed by an off-duty Jackson police officer the night of March 5, as he was walking across a local highway.
According to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, an investigator from the coroner’s office identified Dexter Wade using fingerprints and reported that identification to Jackson Police on March 9, just four days after Wade’s death.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said on Oct. 26, during his State of the City address, that Wade had no ID on his person but he did have a prescription drug bottle.
The Jackson Police Department used the information from the bottle to contact Dexter Wade’s medical provider, who in turn offered authorities a number “that was not accurate or not a good number to be used any further, and so they were unable to make contact,” said Lumumba, noting that this transpired before Bettersten Wade Robinson first reported her son missing.
His body remained in a morgue for months before being discharged and buried in a potter’s field.
“Because of that, Mr. Wade, they were unable to find his family within an expeditious period of time, and he was later buried once the coroner went to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors in order to get permission to do so,” Lumumba said.
Bettersten Wade said she followed up regularly with police for any news regarding what had happened to her son, and didn’t receive any answers from authorities until August when she was notified of his death.
“The failure was that ultimately, there was a lack of communication with the missing persons division, the coroner’s office and accident investigation,” Lumumba said.
The mayor also noted that “the accident was investigated and it was determined that it was, in fact, an accident, and that there was no malicious intent.”
Crump on Monday, however, questioned why police didn’t visit Robinson Wade’s home to inform her of her son’s death.
“If they really wanted to notify her that the police officer had hit and killed her son when he crossed the street, they could have came and knocked on the door. It defies all logic and common sense,” Crump said.
The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it is working with the Jackson Police Department, Hinds County Coroner’s Office, and other relevant agencies to investigate Wade’s death, the failure to notify his next of kin in a timely manner, and the “irregularities surrounding the disposition of Mr. Wade’s body.”
“We ask for the public’s patience as this important work is undertaken,” the statement reads.
The Jackson Police Department declined ABC News’ request for comment on the allegations.
Wade’s family is asking for Wade’s body to be exhumed so they can facilitate an independent autopsy and perform a “proper funeral and burial.”
“Currently, his grave is marked by a pole and number in a pauper’s field,” Crump said during Monday’s press conference.
Mayor Lumumba said during his State of the City address that “at no point have we identified, nor did any investigation reveal that there was any police misconduct in this process.” He also called the monthslong wait to notify Wade Robinson of her son’s death a “failure.”
“To add insult to that trauma, it is even more difficult to not have the ability to grant a proper burial for that child,” Lumumba said.
During the mayor’s State of the City address, Jackson Police Chief Joseph Wade — who has no relation to Dexter Wade — offered his condolences to Wade’s family.
“I cannot imagine the pain that they’re feeling,” said the police chief. “I put measures in place to make sure something like this does not happen on my watch. I’ve also put the right people in place to make sure this does not happen on my watch.”
Crump accused police of an alleged “cover-up” for the failure to notify Robinson for months that her son had been killed by a police officer.
“Far too often in America … we just accept this police narrative,” said Crump Monday. “Ms. Bettersten, you never gave up on your baby boy, your only boy, and the system did not sweep him under the rug. And we’re never going to let Dexter Wade be swept under the rug. We’re going to keep fighting until we get justice.”
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