Mayor admits ‘failure’ to alert mother that police killed her missing son

Bettersten Wade only learned son’s fate 172 days after he was reported missing

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Friday 27 October 2023 23:23 BST
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<p>Dexter Wade </p>

Dexter Wade

The mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, offered an apology to the family of Dexter Wade, who didn’t learn that an off-duty police officer fatally struck the 37-year-old in their cruiser until months later, at which point the man was already buried in a grave for the unknown at a penal farm.

“It is tragic to lose your child. It is tragic to suffer the consequences of having to bury your child before you pass. But to add insult to that trauma, it is even more difficult to not have the ability to have a proper burial for your child," mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in his State of the City speech on Thursday. "And for that we regret a circumstance that Mr. Wade’s family has had to deal with." 

Wade was hit on 5 March, and his family spent months looking for him, driving through local neighbourhoods and appealing to community membets on Facebook. They learned his fate on 24 August, months after his mother Bettersten Wade reported first reported him missing to the Jackson Police Department.

Mayor Lumumba in his speech said city officials suffered from communication issues.

"The failure was that, ultimately, there was a lack of communication with the missing persons division, the coroner’s office and accident investigations,” he said in his remarks.

Ms Wade told NBC News, which first reported on the scandal, she wasn’t satisfied with the mayor’s speech and hoped for more details about what went wrong.

"You’re going to tell me that you are just going to get in touch by phone to tell me my son is dead?" she told the broadcaster. "What happened to a knock on the door to tell me my son is dead? Are you telling me that you all didn’t tell me the whole time because you didn’t have the correct phone number? I paid dearly for a mistake when you all could have just stepped on my doorstep."

Wade was struck by an off-duty corporal driving a police SUV as he walked across Interstate 55, a six-lane highway.

The officer, who has yet to be named publically, alerted the JPD.

The corporal wasn’t suspected of being under the influence of drugs and wasn’t given a sobriety test or cited for any violations.

The Independent has contacted the JPD for more information.

Wade’s death has been ruled accidental.

The man’s identity was known to officials, just not shared in time.

Coroner’s investigators used a bottle of prescription pills to find the deceased man’s name, then found out his mother’s phone number from the medical facility which prescribed them.

Nonetheless, police did not connect the fact that the missing person was the same one sitting in the morgue, and the unclaimed remains were bured on 14 July at the Hinds County penal farm.

It wasn’t until October when Ms Wade was finally able to see her son’s grave. Now she’s raising funds to get the body exhumed and transfered.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, known for his cases involving victims of police misconduct, is working with the family.

Wade’s disappearance and death isn’t the first interaction between the family and the JPD.

In 2019, Ms Wade’s 62-year-old brother died when a Jackson officer slammed him to the ground.

The officer was convicted of manslaughter and is appealing the case.

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