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Thursday, April 9, 2009
Who shot Billey Joe Johnson?
The George County Sheriff’s Department claims that on that fateful morning, Billey Joe attempted to break into the home of an on-again, off-again girlfriend in the nearby city of Lucedale. According to the sheriff’s department, he left the scene and ran a red light at 5:34 a.m. After a 1½-mile pursuit, Billey Joe got out of his truck, met sheriff’s deputy Joe Sullivan and handed over his license. Then Billey Joe returned to his truck, put a 12-gauge shotgun he used to target deer to his head and committed suicide. It was 5:40 a.m.
Sullivan’s patrol car was not equipped with a camera, and his is the only account of the event. Billey Joe’s friends and family don’t believe the story.
Billey Joe was black. Sullivan is white. The case, as such, is shrouded by race in this small community in the Deep South. Everyone wants answers. No one is getting them. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the local district attorney – the two bodies in charge of the case – have issued neither a ruling nor many pertinent details.
Annette and Billey Joe Johnson Sr. want to know how their son, Billey Joe Johnson Jr., 17, died.
Johnson, a talented running back at George County (Lucedale, Miss.) High School, was remembered during a funeral service at his high school. He died of a gunshot wound Dec. 8 during a traffic stop by a George County deputy in Lucedale after the officer witnessed Johnson run a red light and a four-way stop.
The state and the Johnsons' lawyer are conducting investigations into his death. "The investigation is going to be an exhaustive search for the truth," District Attorney Tony Lawrence said.
Here is what the police say about Billey Joe’s death: During a routine traffic stop, Billey Joe Johnson Jr. shot himself in the head.
He woke at 4:30 a.m. that day, a school day, at his parents’ trailer and took a shower. His dad thought he was going hunting. Instead, he drove 15 miles to Lucedale, the 2,700-person county seat and location of both his high school and a girlfriend.
Billey Joe’s truck had notes from multiple female admirers, and his friends said he enjoyed the attention offered to a star athlete. He’d already run for 4,000 yards in his high school career and helped make George County a state powerhouse. Everyone knew him. Many wanted to be with him.
One girl, whom Yahoo! Sports will not name since she is a minor, had been around the longest. It was a typical high school relationship – “they’d break up every day and then get back together,” said one of his friends, Drew Bradley. The fact that she was white bothered some people.
“It’s George County, it’s a little Southern town,” said Bradley, who is white. “You’ve got a bunch of racist people down here. You have people who hated on them because it was black and white.”
After two months of questions and very few answers, a George County grand jury rendered a unanimous decision ,12-gauge shotgun accidentally discharged as Billey Joe Johnson Jr. was attempting to move the shotgun in the cab portion of this truck,"
The family isn’t buying it.
"I ain't buying that," said his mother, Annette Johnson, after the 16-member grand jury ruled Thursday. "We are going further and we are going higher."
Her pursuit is joined by her attorney, who plans to continue his own investigation, and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which said it would submit evidence to the U.S. Justice Department and ask for a federal probe.