The ACLU of Mississippi filed a lawsuit on behalf of Javarius Russell, an officer for the Jackson Public School District, against the City of Lexington, Sam Dobbins, the former Police Chief of the Lexington Police Department, and Lexington police officers Charles Henderson, Cordarius Epps, and Brad Stanely, for violating Mr. Russell’s rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint, available here, alleges that Dobbins and the other individual defendants wrongfully arrested Mr. Russell on pretextual and fabricated grounds and summarily jailed him over the New Year’s weekend starting Friday, December 31, 2021, in violation of his constitutional rights, without due process of law. The complaint goes on to allege that they then took Mr. Russell to the Holmes County Detention Center, where Officer Dobbins asked him to make a cash payment in order to have the charges dropped and secure Mr. Russell’s release.  Dobbins said the money was to repair a police vehicle that, he claimed, Mr. Russell had hit with his ATV, an allegation the complaint characterizes as a “pure fabrication.”

“Mr. Russell did nothing wrong; he is just one victim of the blatant misconduct and brutality perpetrated by the Lexington Police Department,” Joshua Tom, Legal Director at the ACLU of Mississippi, said. “The actions of these officers represent a clear danger to the Lexington community, and they, along with the City of Lexington, must be held accountable.”

Lexington’s residents, who are 86% Black, have long suffered under the LPD’s racially-motivated and discriminatory policing practices. The complaint, in Mr. Russell’s case, describes many instances of alleged police misconduct, as does the complaint in a lawsuit against the City of Lexington brought by our friends at JULIAN Legal.

In fact, thanks to the work of local leaders, JULIAN and other community partners, Lexington residents have filed an exhaustive list of complaints alleging incidents of police brutality, falsifying charges, conducting racially discriminatory roadblocks, requiring cash bonds in excessive amounts, and other ongoing, gross misconduct. Their work led to the public release of a recording featuring then-Chief Sam Dobbins using racist and homophobic slurs, as he bragged about killing multiple people in the line of duty. 

Today’s action is part of the ACLU of Mississippi’s new initiative to enlist law firms, private attorneys and community organizations to bring lawsuits to stop police violence and harassment. Mississippi’s ACLU affiliate will continue this effort to bring the legal resources and talents of firms and private attorneys, to represent other victims of unconstitutional police misconduct. 

“The more individual civil actions we bring, the more we hold police accountable,” said Jarvis Dortch, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Unfortunately, there are far too many Javarius Russell’s, and it often feels like the issue of police violence is overwhelming. By coordinating investigations and filings, the ACLU of Mississippi aims to bring greater legal resources to the fight against racist policing in Mississippi.”

Date filed

August 1, 2023



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