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Judgement upheld in case where the wrong Vicksburg house was served a ‘no knock’ warrant

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(Photo by Blogtrepreneur - Legal Gavel, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50979400)

Earlier this week, the Mississippi Appeals Court upheld a 2019 judgement awarding a Vicksburg couple $50,000 for law enforcement wrongly entering their home on a “no-knock” warrant.

Agents with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and officers with the Vicksburg Police Department broke down the door of Henry and Rita Hunter’s home at 323 Feld St. the morning of April 24, 2015, according to court documents.

Officers had a no-knock warrant to search the home. The problem was that it was the wrong house; the warrant should have been served next door at 325 Feld St.

The incident occurred after a yearlong task force investigation targeted several areas of drug activity in Warren County. Dubbed “Operation Long Time Coming II,” MBI used confidential informants to buy quantities of marijuana and crack and powder cocaine from “numerous individuals” including the person who lived at 325 Feld St.

In April 2015, MBI officers Norman Harris and Robert Whitten obtained the warrant in question from the Warren County Justice Court. Their application incorrectly listed the address as 323 Feld St.

On the morning the warrant was served, former VPD Lt. Troy Kimble, who served as the VPD’s lead officer on the task force, realized they had the wrong house, and informed the MBI agent in charge, Evan Storr. Regardless, Storr proceeded.

“Just prior to the team’s execution of the warrant, Rita was in her nightgown drinking coffee and watching the news,” the court document states. “When she heard what sounded like someone opening the screen door at the front of their house, she notified Henry. Henry, who was not fully dressed, proceeded to open the front door but quickly stopped at Rita’s request. As he went to the bedroom to retrieve his firearm, law enforcement officers used a battering ram to open the door, which flew off the hinges. The officers had their weapons drawn and commanded the Hunters to ‘get down, get down.’ Rita immediately complied and started to pray. Henry complied after Rita begged him to get on the floor. When the officers asked the Hunters for the targeted individual’s whereabouts, the Hunters responded that he did not live there. The officers allowed Henry and Rita to get off the floor approximately five minutes later.”

Kimble then directed the officers to the correct house next door, where they spoke with the mother of the individual they were looking for. He was later apprehended at another location.

“Following the incident, Rita drove Henry to the emergency room because his heart was racing. He previously had a stent put in his heart,” the court’s decision states. “The medical visit cost the Hunters approximately $2,850. The damage to their door totaled approximately $350.”

The Hunters subsequently sued the MBI and the VPD for $50,000. VPD sought summary judgment in 2018 and was removed from the suit.

Judge Toni Terrett of the Warren County Circuit Court heard the case in a bench trial in July 2019. Evidence showed that the VPD had the correct address in their files. Lt. Kimble also testified that he notified Agent Storr twice that they had the wrong address before the team battered down the Hunter’s door.

In the original ruling, the court summarized why it ruled the way it did: “As a result of [the Bureau’s] actions, Henry said he felt ‘demoralized.’ The incident had a lasting impact on both Henry and Rita’s sense of security and well-being in their personal home. Henry said he felt the event was detrimental to his character. He and Rita have endured jokes and comments from others in the community about whether they are selling drugs. … Rita said she has not gotten over what happened on that day.”

“At the close of trial, the trial judge found that the Bureau acted in reckless disregard in executing the ‘no knock’ warrant on the Hunters’ home when it had been told twice that the wrong address was being searched. Based on that finding, the trial court awarded the Hunters $50,000 in damages,” the appeal court’s decision states.

The court upheld Terrett’s ruling in a unanimous 8-0 ruling.

“[W]e affirm the trial court’s finding that the Bureau acted in reckless disregard and likewise affirm the trial court’s $50,000 award in damages,” the court wrote.

Read the decision.

Thomas Parker contributed to this report.

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MDHS requesting proposals for TANF grants

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The Mississippi Department of Human Services is requesting proposals from organizations best positioned to provide services in low income, at-risk areas of the state. The RFP is scheduled to be issued Monday, Nov. 2.

The agency will primarily invest Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant dollars, in concert with public and private partners to fund the programs outlined in the RFP.

“Our mission at MDHS is to make certain essential services available, while serving as good stewards of taxpayer money,” said MDHS Executive Director Robert G. “Bob” Anderson in a statement. “We are committed to providing statewide service delivery to our clients, and we need competitive proposals from across the state to accomplish that goal.”

The RFP will request services in the following areas:

Afterschool Program Activities

MDHS is soliciting nonprofit organizations and non-federal entities (i.e., state government; local school districts) to implement a program for age appropriate services, in multiple locations, with a priority given to entities that target children and youth attending high poverty/low performing schools and/or at-risk youth attending schools in high poverty areas where high juvenile justice referrals take place. Programs will service the target populations during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session such as afterschool and summer recess. Programs should give preference to those that receive MDHS services.

Parenthood Initiative

MDHS is soliciting nonprofit organizations and non-federal entities (i.e., state government; local school districts), in multiple locations, to provide and coordinate a wide spectrum of parent-focused programs to support the formation and maintenance of two-parent families that improve family stability and functioning. Services provided should support overall goals of safety, permanency, and well-being for children and families.

The purpose of the Parenthood Initiative is to train, educate, encourage, and assist parents in becoming knowledgeable and assuming responsibility for the nurturing, financial, growth and developmental needs of their children. In addition, the Parenthood initiative should strive to demonstrate the ability to collaborate with other service providers and community stake holders to increase support for and accountability to the families.

Upon award, subgrantees will be required to prepare and submit demographic and outcome reports designed by MDHS. Subgrantees shall submit these reports by a MDHS designated due date (no more than monthly; no less than quarterly). Evaluation and outcome reports are an integral element of the program’s ongoing planning, design and implementation. An effective report that evaluates specific targets enables the subgrantee to make informed decisions about changes that the program may need.

To further develop quality MDHS partnerships, MDHS will offer a general grant writing training free of charge for organizations interested in responding to MDHS solicitations. The training will be conducted at the MDHS State Office Building (South Tower of the City Centre building), located at 200 South Lamar Street, Jackson, on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Training will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end by noon.

The training will be archived for those who are not able to attend Oct. 29, and will subsequently be offered Nov. 5, 12 and 19 at the same time through Zoom. On Oct. 30, MDHS will provide registration instructions for the November training sessions.

The training, which will be conducted by MDHS staff, will cover all aspects of grant writing from the seven basic elements of a strong grant proposal to finalizing the proposal for submission.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer this as a service to anyone wishing to become a partner of the agency,” Anderson said. “This will provide a great benefit to our key stakeholders, and I encourage anyone wishing to submit a response to the RFP to take advantage of it.”

The training will be offered in person and virtual. Anyone interested in participating should register for this training opportunity by completing the SmartForm online. A SmartForm will need to be completed per participant, not per company. Space is limited due to social distancing guidelines and in-person training will be first come, first served. If you select “in-person” you will receive a confirmation from Procurement Services as to whether your registration was one of the first 20 received. If space is not available, you will still have the virtual option.

Once registered, those choosing to participate virtually will be given instructions on how to connect via Zoom.

For more information on the training and to view the agenda, visit the MDHS training webpage.

For more information on the request for proposals, go to the MDHS RFP webpage.

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Silver Alert issued for Grenada woman

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Dora Lee Jackson (photo courtesy MDPS)

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has issued a Silver Alert for 67-year-old Dora Lee Jackson of Grenada, Mississippi, in Grenada County.

Jackson is a black female, 5 feet, 9 inches tall, weighing 291 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

She was last seen Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in the 800 block of Washington Street in Grenada County.

Jackson is believed to be in a 2005 gold Dodge Caravan bearing Mississippi license plate GAA2872 and traveling in an unknown direction.

Family members say Jackson suffers from a medical condition that may impair her judgement. If anyone has information regarding the whereabouts of Dora Lee Jackson, contact Grenada Police Department at 662-226-1211.

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Governor signs emergency declaration ahead of Zeta

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Source: NOAA/NHC

Gov. Tate Reeves signed an emergency declaration Wednesday morning ahead of Hurricane Zeta.

Zeta is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon along the Mississippi and Louisiana coastlines as a significant hurricane, bringing strong winds of up to 100 mph, heavy rain and life-threatening storm surge. The highest inundation will occur somewhere between the mouth of the Pearl River and Dauphin Island, Alabama.

Hurricane conditions are expected this afternoon within portions of the Hurricane Warning area between Morgan City, Louisiana, and the Mississippi/Alabama border. Damaging winds, especially in gusts, will spread well inland across portions of southeast Mississippi and southern and central Alabama Wednesday night due to Zeta’s fast forward speed.

A few tornadoes are expected beginning Wednesday afternoon and through the night over southeastern parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, southern Alabama, and the western Panhandle of Florida.

Heavy rain of up to 4 inches is expected through Thursday across most of Mississippi and Alabama.

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Vicksburg
77°
Mostly Cloudy
7:17am6:16pm CDT
Feels like: 77°F
Wind: 6mph ESE
Humidity: 95%
Pressure: 29.85"Hg
UV index: 3
WedThuFri
79/48°F
59/45°F
63/41°F

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