(LAUREL, Miss.) — Rasheem Carter, a Black man from Mississippi who went missing late last year after claiming he was being targeted by white men in his community, was found dead with his head severed from his body, according to a recently released independent autopsy.
In light of the results, Carter’s family is calling for a federal probe into his death, arguing that the police explanation that there was no foul play does not hold water.
Smith County Sheriff Joel Houston told NBC News that the department stood behind its earlier determination that no foul play was involved in Carter’s death as earlier evidence “didn’t suggest anything.”
“Nothing is being swept under the rug,” Houston said Tuesday. “There’s nothing to hide.”
Houston added that the department is awaiting results of search warrants to rule out foul play.
“One thing is for certain … This was not a natural killing. This was not a natural death. This represents a young man who was killed,” attorney Ben Crump said during a press conference Monday, releasing the findings of an autopsy report by the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office.
Carter was reported missing two days after his last known sighting in Laurel, Mississippi, last October, days after telling his mother, Tiffany Carter, and the police about being targeted by white men in the community, his mother said at the press conference.
Around a month later on Nov. 2, some of the 25-year-old’s remains were found in a wooded area south of Taylorsville.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office said it “had no reason to believe foul play was involved” when they first found Carter’s body last year, according to a statement released on Facebook a day after he was found.
The sheriffs initial statement sparked small peaceful protests throughout the community, with members skeptical of no foul play being involved.
According to the autopsy, the medical examiner ruled that the cause and manner of death were undetermined. The report also states that the conditions of the remains at the time of the autopsy made it difficult to determine exact timing of the injuries, and said that signs of animal activity on the remains clouded the picture.
Crump, along with his co-counsel Carlos Moore, is calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to open a federal investigation into Carter’s death.
Carter’s head was severed from his body, with his spinal cord recovered in an area separate from his head, according to Crump. Some of Carter’s body parts are still missing, according to Crump.
“They have recently found remains that they believe are also Rasheem Carter at another part of where he went missing, and what that tells us is, this was a nefarious act. This was an evil act. Somebody murdered Rasheem Carter. And we cannot let them get away with this,” Crump said.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation of Carter’s death. Citing an open investigation, the agency declined further comment and deferred to the lead agency, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, for further information.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for a statement.
“Clearly Rasheem’s death was not a natural death,” said Ricky McDonald, president of the Jefferson County NAACP chapter, said at the press conference. “After Rasheem was found shortly after law enforcement there says that it was no foul play. How can it not be foul play when his body was dismembered? How can it not be foul play when his body parts was scattered all over the land in which he was found.”
Days before he was reported missing, Carter discussed with his mother his concerns for his safety detailed in a text message between the two.
After specifying a name in the text message who Carter felt threatened by, he continued in the message that “if anything happens… he’s responsible for it. … He got these guys wanting to kill me,” according to text messages his mother read during the press conference.
“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. So I told him to go to the police station because I felt in my heart they would serve and protect like they are obligated to do,” she said.
Carter visited the Taylorsville Police Department on two separate occasions leading up to his disappearance, according to Chief of Laurel Police Department Tommy Cox, whose department filed the initial missing persons case after the family came to them for help.
The Taylorsville Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News for comment.
“This doesn’t seem like the act of just one individual,” Crump said during the press conference. “It kind of lines up with what Tiffany said, there was a lynch mob of three trucks chasing her son before he went missing.”
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