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Dexter Wade’s Family Wants Justice Department Investigation Over Death and Burial, Attorney Ben Crump Says

Dexter Wade’s death and the monthslong failure of the Jackson Police Department to notify his family deserves federal scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, civil-rights attorney Ben Crump said as he joined family members at a press conference on Monday, Oct. 30.

Wade’s mother, Bettersten Wade, reported her 37-year-old son missing in March. But not until late August did the Jackson Police Department inform her that he had died on March 5 after an SUV driven by an off-duty Jackson police officer hit him while he was trying to cross Interstate 55. Dexter Wade’s body remained in the local morgue until late July when the county buried him in an unmarked grave without the family’s knowledge. The coroner’s office labeled the death an accident, NBC News reported on Oct. 25.

On Oct. 27, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said his office’s review did not find “any police misconduct in this process or that there was any malicious intent,” but instead attributed the failures to “a lack of communication with the missing person’s division, the coroner’s office and accident investigation.”

As he called for the federal government to step in on Monday, though, Crump expressed skepticism over the mayor’s claims.

“It’s hard to accept that with a leap of faith,” he said. During the press conference, the attorney held up a piece of paper that he said documented numerous case notes from former Hind’s County Coroner’s office investigator LaGrand Elliot instructing JPD to contact Wade’s family and make a death notification to his next-of-kin: his mother.

During a press conference on Oct. 30, 2023, attorney Ben Crump held up this document which he said shows contacts between Hinds County Coroner’s Office investigator LaGrand Elliot and JPD officers about contacting Dexter Wade’s next-of-kin. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

Crump has represented many other Black families in high-profile cases around the country, including the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, George Floyd and Tyre Nichols.

Bettersten Wade said she believes the failure to notify her family of the accident and her son’s death was intentional and that it speaks

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