The family of a Black man who was shot and killed in Bourbon, Mississippi last month by his white neighbor is seeking justice. The unidentified man who shot 28-year-old Justin King claims it was in self-defense, but King’s family and his neighbors dispute this version of events.
According to NBC News, the man told police that King, who lived in the same trailer park, was trying to break into his trailer on Nov. 3. A statement from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department said “an altercation took place” at the trailer after King tried “forcing entry” and that the homeowner “feared for his life.” Under Missouri’s castle doctrine laws, homeowners are allowed to defend their homes with lethal force.
However, King’s family and at least five neighbors deny this happened and some said the two men were friends. Speaking with NBC on Monday (Dec. 6), neighbor Katie Bosek said King and the other man were working together on her car prior to the shooting.
“They both got under the hood together,” she recalled. “They’re just cutting it up laughing as they’re doing it.” After repairing the car, Bosek said King and the man walked off together and 15 minutes later she heard three gunshots and saw King lying on the ground. She described King as “a gentle man who helped everybody.”
Another neighbor, Trina Wilson, said the shooter “knew Justin.”
“You would think that if your friend was coming into your house, you’d be like, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing?’ Why do you automatically resort to pulling out a gun and shooting him?” she said. “How can this even possibly go down as self-defense?”
The 42-year-old man also had a history of violence and using racist slurs, NBC reports.
“He would blurt [racial slurs] out. He wouldn’t call it to Justin if he was standing around me and Justin because he knows I’d knock his ass off,” neighbor Earl McCoy said.
John King, King’s father, told NBC his son was the only Black person living at the trailer park and he believes his death was an act of “racially motivated hate.”
The shooter was arrested and released one day later and was not charged with any crimes. King’s family and the trailer park’s residents have been trying to bring more attention to the case in the month since his death.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department previously said the shooting was still under investigation, but “at this time, it appears that King was shot and killed after forcing entry into a neighboring residence where an altercation took place.”
Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr., who is representing the family, says King was standing outside when he was shot, not trying to enter the trailer.
“That’s Jim Crow justice,” Chapel told NBC. “This is a statewide issue. In Justin’s case, they allege that there’s an investigation, but then they produce the results of the investigation before the investigation is complete. What kind of police work is that?”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump brought attention to the case on Monday. See his tweet and a picture of King and his daughter below.