Test said to prove man shot by deputy was not handcuffed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2002

[11/18/02]The attorney for Warren County Deputy Sheriff Lionel Johnson says a test proves his client is telling the truth about what happened Oct. 26 when his client shot a 22-year-old who later died.

A test done at Mississippi Mortuary in Pearl concludes that Jimmie Taylor II had not been handcuffed during the scuffle with Johnson outside his home at 4808 Halls Ferry Road. Taylor died less than 24 hours after being shot once just above the left thigh. Family members and other witnesses have said Taylor had been arrested and cuffed and was on the ground when he was shot.

“I feel like Lionel has been vindicated by these forensic tests which conclude conclusively that he was not handcuffed,” said attorney David Sessums.

District Attorney Gil Martin said he wasn’t commenting on any of the evidence and said, as he has from the first day, that the case will go to a grand jury.

Johnson and another deputy were dispatched to the Taylor home by 911 after reports that party-goers were blocking Halls Ferry with their vehicles. Witness reports about what happened have varied greatly.

Tests for trace elements of metal on Taylor’s wrists were negative, according to forensic consultant Michael W. West of Hattiesburg. A wound on the inside of Taylor’s right wrist left a mark there that was consistent with contact with the top of Johnson’s handcuffs, the report says, because it left a pattern similar to the links that connect the cuffs. There was no indication that cuffs had been around Taylor’s wrists, according to West’s report.

Johnson, 27, a six-year veteran of the department and a former U.S. air marshal, is on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation by the Mississippi Safety Highway Patrol. He has not spoken about the case.

Investigators have interviewed about 50 witnesses who were at a birthday party for Taylor’s younger brother the night of the shooting.

“The investigation is still continuing,” said Jan Schaefer, spokesman for the highway patrol investigators.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace has said Johnson will remain on leave until the conclusion of that investigation.

“We’re waiting on the state police to turn their findings over to the District Attorney,” Pace said.

Other forensic tests indicate Johnson’s Glock 9mm pistol was 1 to 3 inches away from Taylor when he was shot. That conclusion conflicts with witness reports that Johnson was standing above Taylor when the shot was fired.

Warren County Coroner John Thomason has said the autopsy showed that Taylor bled to death from internal injuries. The report also indicated that Taylor had a noticeable scrape over his eye that appeared to have happened before he was hospitalized.

The Taylor family has referred all questions to attorney Marshall Sanders, who has not returned phone calls.

The 911 call was logged around 10:30 p.m. Reports differ on how the conflict started, but the officers were separated when things became heated between Johnson, Jimmie Taylor, and the brother, Maurice Taylor, 17, who was celebrating his birthday with others, including many fellow members of the Vicksburg High School football team. Taylor’s parents were also eye witnesses to events.

Maurice Taylor was treated at the hospital that night for a head injury and taken into custody briefly by Warren County deputies before being released to his mother.

Johnson was also treated at the hospital, but authorities have not said what Johnson’s injuries were, and his partner has not been identified.