Mississippi city leader calls for police brutality investigation

Published 5:23 pm Friday, June 19, 2020

Meridian City Council Vice President Weston Lindemann is calling for a formal council investigation into an allegation of police brutality.

Lindemann, who represents Ward 5, held a news conference Thursday about a March 27 arrest made by the Meridian Police Department.

The councilman provided The Meridian Star a letter dated June 8 that he said was written by Levi Gibbs, the man who was arrested.

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In the letter, Gibbs claimed officers punched him, and kicked him repeatedly after telling him he was stopped for speeding.

Lindemann said he requested the case report, use of force report, body and dash camera footage and dispatch records related to the arrest and the city said it did not have the information and that all records had been sent to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“I’m sure there’s a much more complete story here that the body cams would help enlighten us on what exactly took place,” Lindemann said.

MPD Interim Chief Charles Coleman said Friday that his department has not received any complaints about the arrest and no officers are being disciplined.

“No one has put me or the Meridian Police Department on notice or alert about any rights being violated,” Coleman said.

A representative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office reviewed video and found no improper actions by the arresting officers, according to Coleman.

Coleman said he asked the office to review the video following a June 16 city council meeting during which Lindemann referred to an allegation of police brutality.

An email Coleman sent to Meridian Chief Administrative Officer Eddie Kelly saying the police department did not “have access to the arrest” did not mean police did not have access to files and video footage, but that the case was being handled by federal authorities, Coleman said.

He said Lindemann never reached out to him directly about the arrest and he shared a phone number for a contact in the U.S. Attorney’s Office with Lindemann through Kelly.

A March 30 arrest docket shows Gibbs, 50, was charged with resisting arrest on March 27.

A federal grand jury indicted him on May 12 for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.

In an affidavit filed in federal court, an FBI task force officer said that on March 27 in Meridian he saw a car travel over the center line numerous times and that it was traveling “at a speed higher than other vehicles.”

After Gibbs was stopped and advised to get out of the car, an officer removed a gun from Gibbs’ leg and Gibbs consented to the search of the car, the affidavit said.

Gibbs “forcefully and passively resisted” an attempt to handcuff him and he was “taken into custody with the minimum amount of force used to effect the arrest,” according to court documents.

Gibbs’ federal court documents do not mention police brutality, but in a motion filed June 16, Gibbs denied that he crossed a center line of traffic or that he was speeding.

“If Mr. Gibbs’ recollection of events is correct, then the officers did not have reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop and all of the evidence obtained during the traffic stop must be suppressed,” the motion said.

Messages left with Gibbs’ attorney were not returned as of Friday afternoon.

Online records show Gibbs is being held in the Madison County Detention Center.

Coleman said he would release information on the case to the city attorney on Monday.

“We have enough evidence to prove that he was not assaulted,” Coleman said.