JACKSON, Miss. — George Robinson was sitting in his car one night in January 2019 when three Jackson, Mississippi, police officers came by, searching for the person who had shot and killed a pastor as he opened his church for Sunday services.
According to an indictment handed down last week by a Hinds County grand jury, the officers used excessive force, “body-slamming George Robinson headfirst into the roadway pavement, as well as striking and kicking George Robinson multiple times in the head and chest.” Witnesses said he may have been struck in the head with a flashlight.
Robinson, 62, was not arrested that night. Instead, he died two days later from what the coroner ruled was a homicide by blunt force trauma.
The officers accused of beating him, Desmond Marcellous Barney, Anthony Gerald Fox and Lincoln Chalmers Lampley, have all been charged with second-degree murder in Robinson’s Jan. 15, 2019, death. They were booked into the Hinds County Jail, where Barney and Lampley were briefly held on bail of $100,000 each.
Fox was ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bond. All three were bonded out Thursday, according to WLBT in Jackson.
All three officers, who like Robinson are Black, deny responsibility for his death.
“This is something that should have never been indicted, and every police officer that works, particularly in Jackson and in this county, could find themselves in this position,” Francis Springer, the attorney representing Lampley, told the news station.
Springer further told CNN that the accusations in the indictments are incorrect and “are not supported by (the defense’s) evidence.” Michael Cory, an attorney representing Barney, agreed.
“Neither Desmond Barney nor the other officers did anything that caused Mr. Robinson’s death,” Barney told the news network. “There is much more to this story than what is being reported in the media. He is looking forward to the truth coming out.”
Since Robinson’s death, Fox and Barney have left the Jackson police force and now work for the Clinton Police Department, WLBT reported. Lampley remains at the Jackson Police Department but has been placed on administrative duty.
“We feel really confident, once we’re able to exhibit the evidence we have, that these officers are going to be vindicated,” Springer said, according to The New York Times.
“All we know is that my brother was beaten,” Robinson’s sister, Bettersten Wade, told reporters at a news conference on Friday. “(There) wasn’t nothing wrong with him when he came to his house. And that’s where he was living. He lived on Jones Street.
“He came to his house, and they snatched him out and they did what they did.”
Watch George Robinson’s family and their lawyers speak to reporters below.
A killing, a manhunt and a beating
The events that led to Robinson’s death began with another killing, that of Pastor Anthony Longino of Jackson’s New Bethany Missionary Baptist Church. Longino, 62, was found shot to death the morning of Jan. 13 just outside the front doors of the tiny, dilapidated church.
The Clarion Ledger reported that the homicide sent shock waves through the community.
Barney, Fox and Lampley were sweeping the Washington Addition area of Jackson, looking for Longino’s killer, around 7:21 p.m. when they spotted Robinson sitting in his vehicle on Jones Street, WAPT in Jackson reported. They pulled him out of the vehicle for “noncompliance” after they saw what they believed was a drug transaction.
A federal wrongful death lawsuit filed in December by Robinson’s mother, Vernice Robinson, and Wade alleges that George Robinson, who had recently suffered a stroke, was struggling to get out of his car when the officers pulled him out.
“At no time during this event was Mr. Robinson threatening harm to himself or anyone else,” the lawsuit states.
Ricky Robinson, assistant chief of the Jackson Police Department, said last year that American Medical Response, a paramedic company, arrived around 15 minutes later to check George Robinson out. He was allowed to leave without further medical attention.
George Robinson was released from police custody with a citation. A short time later, he headed to the Mustang Motel, where he had a room. Surveillance footage at the hotel shows him going into his room and interacting with multiple visitors.
A friend called 911 around 11 p.m. that night, and Robinson was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the assistant chief said.
Robinson suffered cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain, his family’s lawsuit states. The swelling led to his death on Jan. 15.
The suit accuses the officers of violating Robinson’s rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendments by conducting an illegal seizure and denying him his right to due process. It alleges negligence, reckless disregard, assault and battery.
The Jackson Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division found no evidence of wrongdoing, WLBT reported. The FBI looked into Robinson’s death and found no evidence of civil rights violations.
Jackson’s Civil Service Commission also cleared the officers and allowed them to return to duty, the news station said.
The Jackson Free Press reported that two of the three officers had been present during previous officer-involved killings. Lampley and Barney were present for a fatal shooting on Nov. 15, 2017, following a car chase, as well as a June 1, 2018 shooting.
They and a third officer, Officer Anthony Veasey, were exonerated of wrongdoing in both shootings, the newspaper reported. In October 2018, the officers fought to be allowed back on the streets.
“They’ve been cleared by every avenue that we know of that Jackson Police Department policy requires, but they’re still not returned to duty,” Springer, who was representing the officers through the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, said at the time. “The City of Jackson is short enough police officers. They need everybody they can on the street.”
Three months later, Robinson was dead.
Wade said Friday that the family is pleased that criminal charges have been filed against Barney, Lampley and Fox.
“All they need to do is just own up to what they did,” Wade said. “We’re just asking them to just be honest. Don’t put it on nobody else, or don’t say this, or don’t say that. We’re just trying to find out the truth.”
She told reporters her family is not trying to ruin anyone else’s family or cause anyone the hurt they are feeling in the wake of her brother’s killing.
“We just want answers,” Wade said.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba issued a statement Thursday following the officers’ arrests in which he said that his administration is committed to ensuring the city has an “accountable police department.”
“As part of our accountability process, the City of Jackson has implemented a policy to turn all cases involving officer-involved deaths over to the DA for review by a grand jury,” Lumumba said. “The Hinds County grand jury indictments issued today begin another phase of the process.
“In the full spirit of transparency, the administration will continue to monitor the situation and provide information to the public throughout each phase. We ask that you keep all those affected by this tragedy in your prayers.”
Cox Media Group