More than seven months after the disappearance of 25-year-old Rasheem Ryelle Carter, and the discovery of only parts of his dismembered body, a month after he went missing near his place of employment in central Mississippi, questions and controversy continue to swirl around the nature of his death. His family, friends, and supporters say there is a lack of transparency by investigators indifferent to their plight.
Upon discovery of a third set of remains in late February, protestors descended upon Taylorsville in late April to demand justice and accountability while stating that inadequate feedback from authorities is creating a perception of indifference toward a community deeply pained and in need of answers. (See The Final Call, Vol. 42 No. 19 and No. 22)
A purported fourth set of remains, presumably discovered on private property approximately 25 miles from Taylorsville, were stated to be animal bones by the Mississippi Crime Lab, prompting an angry response by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney Chris D. Hennis, who said civil rights Attorney Ben Crump’s May 11 press conference, over their discovery in a neighboring county, only served to rouse the passions of those demanding answers over what happened to the rest of the young Black man’s body. He accused the civil rights attorney of trying to “inflame public opinion.”
A May 19 press release from Atty. Crump’s office stated that it is politics, unanswered questions, and a lack of transparency that is inflaming local and national passions, seven months after Rasheem’s mysterious disappearance, subsequent death, and discovery of three incomplete sets of remains.
“It’s time to cut through the political drama, focus on the facts: Rasheem, a young, healthy Black man, was beheaded and his remains have been found in three locations so far,” Atty. Crump’s press statement said in part. “He went to the police twice before he died to complain of being chased by White men in pickup trucks, and the last text he sent to his mother implied that his life was in danger.”
A rally was held on April 29 in Taylorsville to continue to shine a light on the case. “The family of Rasheem Carter, while still in deep grief, is being denied adequate information and closure from the Mississippi officials overseeing this case. From the beginning of this case, the family has been misled.
At first, when the first of Rasheem’s remains were discovered with his head decapitated from his body, officials told the family that it was animals that killed Rasheem. Then, officials admitted that they believed he was murdered,” Atty. Crump stated in a press release ahead of the rally. He accused authorities of “stonewalling” the family.
Mississippi activist and protest organizer Marquell Bridges, of Building Bridges for Community Unity and Progress, told The Final Call that a broad cross-section of individuals and organizations participated, including Black Lives Matter Mississippi, BLM Grassroots Los Angeles, Families United, Families United for Justice, the Southern Regional Black Panther Party, and Israel United in Christ (IUIC). The groups came together to show solidarity with Rasheem’s mother and to bring attention to the need for transparency and justice in Taylorsville and Smith County.
Stating that local officials are not happy with the media attention the protests have brought to Taylorsville, a town with a White majority and a population of fewer than 2,000 people, Mr. Bridges said the local police chief, Gabe Horn, has been adamant about shutting them down and silencing critics of the investigation.
“We’ve been threatened repeatedly by Gabe Horn, (and) he even went to the city council and actually told all of us that we were going to be arrested this time, and could he have the power to arrest us, and the council approved it,” Mr. Bridges said. “In the protest before this one, there were White men lined up on the side—who the police were protecting—calling us the n-word with their Confederate flags,” he explained.
Although the fight for justice, accountability, and transparency are the objectives of the demonstrations, there have been tensions, added Mr. Bridges. “The people at Piggly Wiggly told us we could no longer park there, that’s why we’re boycotting Piggly Wiggly, (and) White militia showed up, and somebody hit a Black girl’s car in front of the police. Somebody in a white truck came around her and side-swiped her right in front of the police, and they let him go, they didn’t even want to take her police report,” he noted.
When asked about the general public’s sentiments regarding Taylorsville and the case of Rasheem Carter, Mr. Bridges said that the White communities outside of the city and outside some of the “racist parts of Mississippi” have had different responses. “Everybody knows they killed Rasheem. Their mentality is set, (and) they just want answers.
They’re not opposed or mad at what we’re doing. It’s the racist people of Taylorsville, these racist police departments, and the organized criminal activity from the police, it’s their response, they appear to be guilty,” Mr. Bridges said. “Nobody came to Taylorsville to fight with the police, we came to find out what happened to Rasheem.”
Rasheem’s mother, Tiffany Carter, told The Final Call that she is encouraged by the widening support she has been receiving from her community. She explained that beyond her son, true justice requires not only justice for an individual but justice for others who suffer, whose names may never be known. She said that the people must continue to stand together to hold local, state, and federal government accountable.
“I want what’s right, and that’s justice, and I want that for my son, and I want that for other people that have lost their children along the way as well,” Ms. Carter said in a telephone interview. “We need more involvement globally, not just my community. I love the community support that I get, but we need more because this is a stand that we gotta all take if we ever want it to stop,” she said. “The goal is justice, and we will not stop until we get it.”
Student Minister Dr. Abram Muhammad, of Muhammad Mosque No. 78 in Jackson, who serves as Mississippi’s State Representative for the Nation of Islam told The Final Call that the mindset of White supremacy seeks to put Blacks “in their place.” It is as poisonous in 2023 as it was both before and during the Civil Rights era, but with a more refined and civilized façade, he said.
“I really don’t see any difference between now and then, the only difference is that they’re more subtle in their approach of oppression, by way of policies and procedures, on how they go about doing things, just not as overtly as it once was,” Student Minister Muhammad said. “These things are going to continue to happen because we won’t listen to the voice of God in our midst, in the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, letting us know that we need to unite and establish something for ourselves, and separate from our open enemy and tormentors,” he said.
Student Min. Muhammad said he is pleased to see signs of change in Mississippi through those stepping up to lead by example as servant leaders, and he acknowledged the show of unity and strength in Taylorsville, particularly among young people. “I want to thank the Hebrew Israelite brothers for their participation and support of the family as we seek to get justice for the (alleged) murder of our brother, and I want to thank them for coming together on behalf of the family. It’s just a microcosm of something that could be a macrocosm (with) our unity as a whole.”