Jonathan Sanders: Mississippi Town Protests Death Of Black Man By White Cop

Tara Dodrill

A Jonathan Sanders memorial rally held in Mississippi on Sunday. Sanders, a 39-year-old black horse trainer, reportedly died after a "physical encounter" with a white police officer. The Clark County NAACP chapter said hundreds attended the rally and shouted," No Justice, no peace" in response to a "lack of action" after the death.

Jonathan Sanders, known as "Mop Top" to his friends, and Stonewell, Mississippi police officer Kevin Herrington, 25, crossed path during the late evening hours on July 8. Sanders was reportedly riding a two-wheeled horse-drawn buggy at the time of the encounter.

Three witnesses who have spoken with lawyers for Jonathan Sander's family maintain that the white police officer attacked the black man "without provocation" after the two encountered each other at a convenience store about a mile away from where the physical altercation occurred. The attorney representing the witnesses, C.J. Lawrence, said the horse trainer was not doing anything illegal and did not resist arrest when officer Herrington "choked him to death."

Bill Ready Jr., Kevin Herrington's attorney, maintains that Jonathan Sanders had what the officer thought were illegal drugs and the horse trainer grabbed Herrington's gun during a struggle.

Officer Herrington is reportedly on unpaid leave recently left town on a trip with his family. Jonathan Sanders was buried on Saturday.

Mississippi law enforcement officials are urging citizens to remain calm while they complete their investigation. Sanders' family attorneys claim that the death of the Stonewell man is indicative of a nationwide problem of "police brutality against black men."

Sanders' attorney, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, said police officials told family members that an autopsy revealed that the horse trainer died from "manual asphyxiation" — strangulation. According to Lumumba, the autopsy also stated that the death was not accidental and deemed a homicide.

Despite the alleged homicide decision on the autopsy, the findings do not necessarily mean that officer Herrington committed a crime.

Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp stated that officers in the small town do not have cameras in their cruises or on their person. Sheriff Kemp also reportedly stated that one of the witnesses for the Sanders' family is Rachel Williams - a jail guard in a neighboring county. Lumumba's law partner and attorney for the witnesses will not confirm the names of anyone coming forward to discuss what they feel happened during the encounter. The attorney did state that the witnesses are related and distantly related to Sanders by marriage. The witnesses reportedly sought legal representation because they "fear for their safety."

Kasey Herrington, the officer's wife, was also reportedly present at the scene because she was inside the police cruiser.

The witnesses who have sought legal representation reportedly stated that Herrington drove up behind Sanders and flashed his and flashed his cruiser light, causing the horse to rear-up. Jonathan Sanders then reportedly fell off the buggy and started chasing his horse. Herrington then allegedly ran and grabbed Sanders by the strap of a headlamp he was wearing - which had fallen around his neck during the horse chase. According to the witnesses, Sanders fell to the ground in a "fetal position" and attempted to "relieve pressure" on his neck but was "otherwise" not resisting arrest. Herrington was allegedly laying on top of Sanders and put him in a chokehold.

One witness allegedly went outside and "pleaded" with Herrington to let go of Sanders. The Stonewell officer allegedly refused to do so until his wife was able to retrieve his firearm. The wife was then allegedly told to use the police radio and call for backup. When Sanders was released from the chokehold, he had blood coming out of his mouth and was unconscious, witnesses maintain.

The physical struggle between Sanders and Herrington began after the officer found drugs on the horse trainer and tried to stop him after he ran, according to the attorney for the policeman.

"It is my understanding that Mr. Sanders fought back and actually grabbed the officer's gun," attorney Ready said. "This was just an unfortunate result of an encounter between him and Mr. Sanders."

Sanders outweighed Herrington and made it difficult for the officer to subdue the suspect, which he did not intend to harm, the lawyer maintains.

Jonathan Sanders reportedly has a history of drug issues. In December 2003 he was convicted for selling cocaine and went to prison until May 2007. In April the horse trainer was arrested again on cocaine possession charges.He was arrested again in April for allegedly possessing cocaine.

Kevin Herrington reportedly graduated from a police academy in Meridian in December 2013. Herrington has reportedly been working shifts for both the towns of Stonewall and Enterprise part-time while also working as an industrial worker.

Accoridng to Enterprise Police Chief Joey Moulds, officer Herrington is a "conscientious officer" who remained on good terms with people even after he'd written them citations. Chief Moulds said there were few complaints about the officer and described his a "very non-confrontational."

"I would have to put him at the top of the list. He's the most humble person I know of, extremely humble, extremely responsible," Chief Moulds added.

Jonathan Sanders' friend described him as a horse-lover who made a living training, buying, and selling the animals.

[Image via: Twitter]