Four months after a Mississippi police officer shot a Black 15-year-old, Jaheim McMillan, in the head outside a Family Dollar store, the state’s Department of Public Safety has released video footage of the encounter, following the state attorney general’s announcement Wednesday that a grand jury found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by law enforcement.
The shooting of McMillan in Gulfport on October 6 sparked months of protest, after some witnesses outside the store said he was unarmed and had his hands up, and that he lay on the sidewalk for minutes without medical care as blood poured from his head. The officer who shot McMillan, Kenneth Nassar, who is white, said the teen turned toward him with a gun.
The video footage, including dash-cam footage, was released Wednesday to local journalists. It shows McMillan and another teen fleeing a parked car in front of the store after a police vehicle enters the lot. Both teens run in the same direction, away from the police vehicle, but as an officer comes toward them, McMillan turns and flees in the opposite direction, back toward the entrance of the store. As he runs, another officer, Nassar, approaches and quickly fires eight shots at him. McMillan is lying on the ground wounded within about five seconds of exiting the car.
Law enforcement edited the video, freezing it at certain points to show that McMillan is holding an object that resembles a firearm before Nassar shoots him. At least seven minutes pass before McMillan is offered medical care.
Three other teens were in the car with McMillan and the other boy who fled; the video shows them following orders to get on the ground near the vehicle with their hands out, and the police arrest them while McMillan bleeds nearby. At one point, one of the teens asks Nassar to offer McMillan some aid. “Sir, can you please check on him? I think he’s dead,” the teen says, according to the Huffington Post, which obtained more video through a records request.
McMillan died from his wounds two days later in a hospital.
The police say they were responding to a 911 complaint about teens in a silver Kia Soul who were “brandishing firearms” at a passing motorist and wearing camouflage masks. According to a redacted report from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, published by the Mississippi Free Press, Nassar said that he gave verbal commands for McMillan to stop running and drop his weapon, and that McMillan did not comply.
After the shooting, investigators interviewed the four other teens. The 16-year-old boy who fled with McMillan said he did not hear any of the officers give commands to put down weapons, and that he could only hear gunshots. Another teen who remained in the car said he heard officers yelling but couldn’t make out the words because the car door was shut, and added that he did not see a weapon in McMillan’s hand when McMillan fled. Two other boys said McMillan had a pistol on him; one said McMillan didn’t raise it or point it toward anyone, and the other said he didn’t think McMillan would fire it toward an officer.
As other officers arrived to the scene, Nassar told one of them that he saw a gun in McMillan’s hand while McMillan was running, but that McMillan did not appear to have the gun in his possession when Nassar handcuffed him afterward and turned over his body. Officers later discovered a gun in the parking lot.
A grand jury heard evidence earlier this month and “found no criminal conduct on behalf of the officer involved,” the state attorney general’s office announced on Wednesday, providing no further details on the factors the jury considered.
As I previously reported, McMillan’s mother, Katrina Mateen, and other supporters have been calling for the release of body-cam video for months, saying they did not trust the police’s version of events and wanted to see footage themselves. Mateen told me that when she went to the Family Dollar store after the shooting, she tried to run past officers to see whether the boy lying on the ground was her son, but that an officer handcuffed her and told her to “shut up.”
McMillan would have turned 16 earlier this month. Days after his birthday, protesters gathered outside the Family Dollar store to remember him. “My son, he was a target,” Mateen told me, crying. “I couldn’t be there for my son.”