Calls mount for federal investigation of Mississippi police in Dexter Wade's death

House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability

(Reuters) - Civil rights leaders on Thursday called for a federal investigation into the case of Dexter Wade, a 37-year-old Black man from Mississippi who was reportedly struck and killed by police and buried without his family's knowledge.

Renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Wade's family, and Rev. Al Sharpton are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Wade's death and the Jackson police's handling of it, saying the police failed to notify the family.

The last time Wade's mother saw her son was on March 5, when he left her home in the evening, NBC News reported last week. He died that same night when he attempted to walk across an interstate highway in Jackson and was struck by an off-duty police car, the news outlet reported.

NBC cited interviews with Wade's family members and documents obtained via public records requests, including a crash report, incident reports and coroner’s office records.

An investigator from the Hinds County Coroner's office responded at the scene and identified Wade by a bottle of prescription medication he had on him. The investigator said he called Wade's mother and could not get through, and then passed the information to the Jackson Police Department so it could notify Wade's next of kin of his death, NBC reported.

The Jackson Police Department did not return a request for comment. A spokesperson for Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told NBC News in an interview that this was a case of miscommunication but the police had "no malicious intent."

"Today, I am asking the Justice Department to not only investigate this incident but the entire procedures, tactics, and culture of the Jackson Police Department," Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, said on Thursday.

Wade's mother filed a missing person report on March 14 and said she nagged the department and begged for help finding her son on Facebook for months, NBC reported. After a new investigator took over the case in August, she was notified that he had died, his body had eventually been released from the morgue and was buried in an unmarked grave at Hinds County jail's penal farm.

Wade, a Jackson native, was a father of two girls. He had struggled with mental illness and substance abuse, NBC reported.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Aurora Ellis)