Family of Mississippi teen who died after being run over by police search for answers and accountability

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The heartbroken mother of a Mississippi teen who died after he was run over by a police cruiser last week is mourning the milestones she’ll never get to see her only son achieve.

“I never [will] have the chance, an opportunity, to see my son grow up and become the young man I always knew he was going to be,” Kaychia Calvert said Friday about her 17-year-old son Kadarius Smith.

Kadarius Smith.
Kadarius Smith.Courtesy Ben Crump

Smith died after being run over by a Leland police cruiser early March 21, according to attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Calvert, and the city attorney representing police.

The teen’s death has been agonizing, Calvert said.

“He’s supposed to graduate next year. I’m not going to get the chance to see that. He was going to move to Georgia to start his life. I’ll never see that. … If he would have had kids, I will never get the chance to see that. I will never see anything — nothing.”

Crump said that Smith died after a patrol vehicle began chasing the teen as he was running home after police were called to a house he had been at. Smith was hit from behind and had “cruiser tire marks on his back,” Crump said.

Calvert, who did not witness the incident, said a nurse told her 24-year-old daughter about the tire marks.

Crump said the teen died at a hospital.

Calvert said her son and a cousin were at a nearby home about 2 a.m. the day he died. Someone at the home called police after asking Smith to leave amid a dispute, Calvert said.

Smith was on the porch when police arrived, Crump said.

“When the police pulled up to the house … Kadarius took off running,” Crump said. “He was running home, from what we understand.”

Crump said Friday that he’s working to determine if there is video of the incident. The attorney for Leland, a city of about 4,000 residents about 115 miles northwest of Jackson, Miss., could not say if there was any video and did not know if Leland police have dashcams or bodycams.

Crump called the actions of the officer who ran over Smith, who was unarmed, “unconscionable” and said that he and Calvert hope the officer is terminated.

The officer has not been publicly identified.

Crump also accused authorities of trying to sweep the teen’s death “under the rug.”

“As if he was inferior, as if his life didn’t matter,” Crump said. “His life mattered, and we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

Josh Bogen, who is the city attorney for Leland, on Friday said the officer has been placed on paid leave.

The city’s police department has turned over the investigation to the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Bogen said. A spokesperson with the state’s Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Highway Patrol and the Bureau of Investigation, said Friday that the highway safety patrol’s accident reconstruction team is assisting with the accident portion of the investigation. The Bureau of Investigation “is not involved in this case,” the agency spokesperson said.

Bogen disputed Crump’s account of how the events unfolded and said that the teen was hit after a call was made to police about an “assault taking place in a home” where the teen had been.

“There was a patrol vehicle that ran over the young man. As to whether he ran over his back, or what happened, that would depend on the investigation,” Bogen said calling the situation an “accident.”

“The idea that the police officer purposely ran over the alleged victim is a complete absurdity,” he said.

Officials with the police department and the department of public safety did not provide any documents or reports about the incident this week.

The county coroner’s office, which determines the cause and manner of death, did not answer respond to multiple calls. Smith, a junior in high school, had plans to move to Georgia with his sister and get into real estate after high school graduation, Calvert said.

She said the death of her “smart,” “outspoken” and “independent” son has been unfathomable.

“I wouldn’t even wish that pain on no one,” Calvert said. “It’s a pain when you lose your mom, or dad or a sister or a brother. But when you lose a child, your only son … ” Calvert said, unable to finish through her tears.

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