Alleged comment by cop after Sky Farm rape leads to city suit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 17, 2000

A shift commander’s alleged comment that a woman likely enjoyed being beaten and raped brought criticism from his fellow Vicksburg Police Department officers and has resulted in a $75,000 suit against the City of Vicksburg.

In the case, Lorie G. Stevens says Sgt. Carl Houston, who no longer is employed by the VPD and whose whereabouts are unknown, slandered her while briefing other policemen on the case July 18, 1999, the day of the attack.

The case quotes Houston as saying in the lineup meeting to the 10 officers under his command that the victim should have “just rocked back and enjoyed it.”

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In a separate accusation, Houston, who is black, is alleged to have said in specific terms that because the victim is white and her accused attackers are black, Stevens should have been appreciative because, Houston indicated, black people are better at sex.

Vicksburg attorney Travis T. Vance Jr. and Jackson attorney James W. Nobles filed the case in Warren County Court. Houston was initially a defendant, but was dropped from the suit that, under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, will be tried without a jury.

Houston, who resigned from the police department in May for unspecified reasons, is believed to have asked for and been granted employment eligibility again after writing to the Vicksburg Civil Service Commission last week. He had not been rehired as of today.

Documents indicate city officials were notified formally by Stevens and her family about what they had been told happened in the police department lineup room, but because the city took no action for a year, the lawsuit was filed in open court.

An interoffice memo posted by Police Chief Mitchell Dent a year later, on July 21, included a one-sentence reminder about “sexual harassment” and that it is “inappropriate to make derogatory, slanderous, racial or ethnic comments about officers, suspects or victims of crime.”

Much of the case is based on a statement prepared by an officer in the meeting who wrote that he was upset by Houston’s words and those of another officer who danced in a circle, pointing his finger in the air and chanting “jungle love, jungle love” as Houston spoke. That officer later apologized, the statement says, and said he quickly realized his words and actions were inappropriate.

The statement, however, says Houston remained defiant to the other officers through the shift, telling them he didn’t care about the victim or them or what anyone thought.

Stevens, with her children, was shopping for a new house on Sky Farm Avenue, when ambushed by two men while waiting for the seller to arrive. She now lives in Virginia with three of her children. Her fourth child lives in Warren County with Joe Stevens, her former husband and the children’s father. Their divorce was final July 25.

Joe Stevens said he met soon after the attack with Mayor Robert Walker, Alderman Gertrude Young and City Attorney Nancy Thomas to discuss comments Houston allegedly made about the case. He said he didn’t get a satisfactory response and instructed Vance to send a letter to the city stating his intention to take legal action.

That meeting apparently resulted in the memo.

The suspects, Romika Perkins, 24, and Derrick Warren, 18, were arrested by police detectives the day after the attack. Both were indicted on charges of sexually assaulting Stevens and tying up her four children, then ages 3 months to 14 years, and locking them in a closet.

Perkins, who is represented by Jackson attorney Chris Klotz, is set to go to trial Nov. 27. A trial date for Warren, who is represented by Vicksburg attorney Andy Sumrall, has not been set.