Native American activist dies mysteriously in ‘Mississippi Burning’ jail one day after Sandra Bland
Friends and family are comparing the mysterious death of a Native American activist while in police custody in Mississippi to the death of a black woman one day before in Texas.
Rexdale Henry, a 53-year-old member of the Choctaw tribe, was found dead July 14 at Neshoba County Jail — where a black burglary suspect died in November from an apparent head injury, reported the Jackson Free Press.
That’s the same jail, albeit in another location, where civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner were taken just before their disappearance and murder in the 1964 “Mississippi Burning” case.
Henry, a lifelong community activist who was running or the Choctaw Tribal Council from Bogue Chitto, was arrested July 9 for failure to pay a fine for a minor traffic violation, and his body was discovered five days later — about a half hour after he was last seen alive.
His death came one day after 28-year-old Sandra Bland was found hanged in her jail in Waller County, Texas, where she had been arrested during a traffic stop for an improper lane change.
Authorities in Texas have ruled her death a suicide by hanging, but her family requested an independent autopsy — and those results should be released this week, now that the state formally released its findings Friday.
An autopsy for Henry was performed by the state crime lab in Jackson, but the results from that investigation have not yet been released.
Henry’s family also requested a second, independent autopsy, which was conducted in Florida.
Those results have not yet been released, either.
“At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells,” said Janis McDonald, a Syracuse University law professor who has been working his Henry’s family.
Henry was arrested one day after 39-year-old Jonathan Sanders, an unarmed black man riding a horse, died during a traffic stop in nearby Clarke County, and he died four days before Troy Goode, a white Memphis concertgoer, died while in police custody in Southaven.
His death came the same day that Kindra Chapman, an 18-year-old theft suspect, was reported dead from hanging in her jail cell in Jefferson County, Alabama.