Family of man shot by Gulfport officer in 2020 to file federal lawsuit

Family of man shot by Gulfport officer in 2020 to file federal lawsuit
Leonard Parker Jr. was shot on Feb. 1, 2020, in the 200 block of 25th Street, while still in his vehicle. Police had received multiple calls from a residence in the area where the shooting took place earlier that day, said Gulfport Police at the time of the incident. (Source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The family of a man who was shot and killed by a Gulfport police officer last year say they are now preparing to file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.

Leonard Parker Jr. was shot on Feb. 1, 2020, in the 200 block of 25th Street, while still in his vehicle. At the time, Gulfport Police said their officers were responding to multiple 911 calls from a residence in the area.

The officer was walking towards that home when officials say Parker began driving toward the officer, leading him to fire his weapon. Parker, a 53-year-old Army veteran and resident of Covington, Ga., was pronounced dead at the scene.

Leonard Parker Jr. was shot on Feb. 1, 2020, in the 200 block of 25th Street, while still in his vehicle. Police had received multiple calls from a residence in the area where the shooting took place earlier that day, said Gulfport Police at the time of the incident.
Leonard Parker Jr. was shot on Feb. 1, 2020, in the 200 block of 25th Street, while still in his vehicle. Police had received multiple calls from a residence in the area where the shooting took place earlier that day, said Gulfport Police at the time of the incident. (Source: Romanucci & Blanden LLC)

Earlier this month, a grand jury found the officer’s actions to be justified, saying no criminal conduct was found on behalf of the officer, who has never been publicly identified.

Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci say at least one key witness was not even asked to testify before the grand jury. That witness was a passenger in the car driven by Parker at the time of the shooting, stated the lawyers.

“Black citizens like Leonard Parker, Jr. continue to be shot and killed by police, even when they are unarmed and have done nothing wrong,” said Crump. “Police were at that location for an unrelated concern and yet Mr. Parker ends up dead. Black lives continue to be undervalued by police in our country, and it must end. As a nation, we must be better; we demand better.”

Officials never released details about the 911 calls made before the shooting, and whether they were connected to Parker. Police also haven’t released either the body cam or dash cam video of the incident.

On Friday, civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci announced they are preparing to file a federal civil rights lawsuit in the Fifth Circuit Court on behalf of Parker’s family. Romanucci and Crump, both attorneys with Romanucci and Blandin LLC, have most recently been in the spotlight for representing the family of George Floyd.

“The lack of a bystander video to this tragedy is so unfortunate, as not only has it made it hard for many people to understand what happen and share this family’s outrage, but it has also allowed law enforcement here to try and bury this case from public view. Officials have not turned over key documents, body camera footage, or the name of any officer involved. But worst of all, they have not shown the Parker family the respect of even acknowledging the death. This is completely shameful, and we will ensure this family gets the justice they deserve,” said Romanucci.

“Leonard was a wonderful father, husband, brother and son, and we continue to grieve and struggle with his loss. He was full of life and should be alive and with us today. We need answers. We need accountability. We need justice,” said Catina Parker, widow of Leonard Parker, Jr.

WLOX News reached out to Gulfport Police for a reaction to the lawsuit. The department declined to comment.

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