A Black man was ‘decapitated’ after saying he was being chased by white men. Why do police say no foul play?
One day in October, Rasheem Carter sent a chilling final text message to his mother.
The Black 25-year-old told her he was being chased by a group of white men in pickup trucks while they hurled racist abuse at him.
She never heard from him again.
One month later, Carter’s remains were discovered in a wooded area – his head completely severed from his body, according to the family.
So why are Mississippi authorities saying that there are “no signs” of foul play?
Here’s what we know so far about the case:
It was 1 October when Carter sent an ominous text message to his mother.
Carter, a welder who lived in Fayette, Mississippi, had gotten a short-term job as a contractor around 100 miles away in Taylorsville.
His mother Tiffany Carter said that he was saving money to try to get his seafood restaurant back up and running after it was shuttered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Carter reached out to his mother telling her in a detailed text message that he was having issues with his coworkers and feared for his life, Ms Carter said at a press conference on 13 March.
“Me and the owner of this company are not seeing eye to eye,” the message read.
“If anything happens to me [he] is responsible for it… he got these guys wanting to kill me.”
Carter gave his mother the name of the individual he was fearful of and told her that he was being targeted by a group of white men in three trucks.
“My son told me that it was three truckloads of white guys trying to kill him. And at the time that he told me, as a mother, you know, I had to think fast,” she said.
She said she urged him to go straight to a police station “because I felt in my heart they would serve and protect like they are obligated to do”.
Carter did visit the Taylorsville Police Department on two separate occasions prior to his disappearance, reported ABC News.
It is not clear when exactly those incidents were.
But, after that day, Carter’s family didn’t hear from him.
He was reported missing the next day on 2 October.
For a month, Carter’s friends and family conducted searches to try to track down the missing Black man.
Then on 2 November – exactly one month after he was last seen alive – his skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area south of Taylorsville.
In a statement announcing the discovery, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said that it did not believe there was foul play in his death.
“At this time, we have no reason to believe foul play was involved, but the case is still under investigation,” the department said.
It is not clear what prompted law enforcement to reach that conclusion – or what even led to the discovery of Carter’s remains.
His remains were then transported to the state’s crime lab for DNA confirmation.
While saying there was no indication of foul play, investigators asked the public to come forward with any tips about the case.
The MBI and FBI was also assisting in the initial investigation, said Smith County Sheriff’s Office.
Now, more than four months after the 25-year-old’s remains were found, his devastated family is no closer to getting answers as to what happened.
No charges have been brought and his cause of death is unknown.
Family demand answers
On Monday, Carter’s grieving family called for the Justice Department to step in and take over the investigation as they described his death as a “murder” and “lynching”.
In a press conference, the family’s attorney – prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump – revealed the results of an independent autopsy into his remains.
Showing graphic images of the Black man’s bones, he said that Carter was decapitated and his remains scattered around the area.
“His head was severed from his body. His vertebrae, his spinal chord was in another spot they discovered away from his severed head,” he said.
He added: “This was not a natural death. This represents a young man who was killed.”
The independent autopsy also revealed that Carter’s bottom and top front teeth were missing, suggesting he was assaulted.
“There is nothing natural about this. It screams out for justice. What we have is a Mississippi lynching,” he said.
Mr Crump also said that someone had tried to use Carter’s credit card at a time when he was now known to have already died.
“This was a nefarious act. This was an evil act,” he said.
“Somebody murdered Rasheem Carter, and we cannot let them get away with this.”
Mr Crump and Carter’s family are urging the DOJ to take over the investigation as a civil rights case following what they say is a months-long stonewalling by local authorities.