Native American Civil Rights Activist Dies Mysteriously In Police Custody

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Originally published on MintPress News

NESHOBA COUNTY, Mississippi — Rexdale W. Henry, a Choctaw activist, died in Mississippi’s Neshoba County Jail earlier this month under circumstances that remain mysterious. Coming just one day after the alleged suicide of black civil rights activist Sandra Bland in Texas, questions are being raised about how an apparently healthy man died in police custody and why autopsy results are being withheld from the public and the media.

Rexdale Henry, a civil rights activist, was found dead in jail the day after Sandra Bland was arrested over failure to pay minor traffic citation
Rexdale Henry, a civil rights activist, was found dead in jail the day after Sandra Bland was arrested over failure to pay minor traffic citation

Henry was arrested on July 9 for an unpaid fine and held over the weekend. He was found dead on July 14 at 10:00 a.m., just 30 minutes after police said they had last seen him alive, according to the local ABC affiliate, WTOK. Cassandra Fairbanks, writing for Photography Is Not A Crime, commented:

Officials have been keeping extremely tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding his death, perhaps hoping to avoid the public scrutiny and backlash that Waller County is facing for their negligence leading to Bland’s death.

The state crime lab conducted an autopsy, but they still have not yet released the results, nearly two weeks following the incident.

Now activists are helping Henry’s family seek answers, starting with demands for an independent autopsy, R.L. Nave reported for Jackson Free Press on Saturday:


‘At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells,’ McDonald said in a statement.”“Helping with the family’s independent probe are civil-rights activists John Steele, a close friend of Henry’s, and Diane Nash, a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as Syracuse University law professors Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson of the school’s Cold Case Justice Initiative.

Henry was an active member of his tribal community and an activist for native rights. The death of an activist in a Mississippi jail is an unpleasant reminder of the death of Michael Deangelo McDougle, who died in the same jail in November, as well as the state’s history of racist violence — in particular, the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, who were arrested in Neshoba County during the 1964 “Freedom Summer” civil rights movement. Their bodies were later found buried in a dam nearby.

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