The family of a black man found dead in Mississippi after warning his mother he was being chased by white men hurling racial slurs called for a federal investigation Monday after local authorities said they had “no reason” to suspect foul play in the man’s death . .
Rashim Carter, 25, was reported missing on October 2, 2022, after his mother said he had called the police for help and called her frantically to say white men in three trucks were chasing him. This was the last day Carter’s family heard from him.
On Nov. 2, authorities said they found his remains in a wooded area south of Taylorsville, Mississippi. In a statement on Facebook a day later, the Smith County Sheriff’s Department said it had “no reason to believe foul play was involved” although the case was under investigation.
On Monday, Carter’s loved ones and their attorney Ben Crump criticized local authorities for stonewalling them for more than four months and for that initial determination, saying they believe Carter was the victim of a brutal hate crime.
“This was a despicable act. This was an evil act,” Crump said at a news conference. “Somebody murdered Rasheem Carter and we can’t let him get away with it.”
Crump on Monday urged the Justice Department to take over the investigation as a civil rights case as he released photos of Carter’s skeletal remains, including his skull and some vertebrae.
“This was not a natural death,” Crump said. “This represents a young man who was killed.”
Crump told reporters he believes Carter’s head was severed from his body and that his spinal cord was found in another location away from his head.
“There is nothing natural about it. It cries out for justice,” Crump said. “What we have is a lynching in Mississippi.”
Carter’s front teeth were missing from the top and bottom rows, which Carter’s family said could indicate he was attacked before he died.
It’s unclear what prompted authorities to search the wooded area or what led them to initially determine foul play was not suspected. The Smith County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to requests for comment.
The Laurel Police Department, which issued Carter’s missing person report, worked on the case early on after Carter’s family asked for help, Chief Tommy Cox told NBC News.
But Cox said Carter had not contacted his department for help before he disappeared and that the Laurel Police Department turned its investigation over to Smith County once it became clear he was out of its jurisdiction.
Cox said his department pulled some phone records and may have interviewed some of Carter’s co-workers, but declined to elaborate.
“We tried to put ourselves in their shoes. It didn’t hurt to put some work into it,” Cox said. “We did what we thought was right. And when it became clear which jurisdiction was going to be the primary one, we handed it over to them.”
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is assisting the sheriff in his investigation, said an autopsy on Carter was completed Feb. 2, but declined to comment further, citing the “open and ongoing investigation.” The FBI is not currently involved in the case, an agency spokesman said.
Three members of Carter’s family said authorities told them wild animals may have torn his body apart.
“He was in so many different pieces,” said Yokena Anderson, a cousin of Carter’s mother, Tiffany Carter. “They wanted to tell us that he went there and fell dead and the animals fed him.”
But Carter’s mother said her son was lucid about the threats he faced during their last phone calls and that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and had no history of mental illness.
She had doubts that her son’s death was an accident even before she saw where his remains were found.
“When I went on stage, the Holy Spirit hit me and said this is a disgusting game,” he said. “I knew then that someone had done something to him.”
Carter, a welder from Fayette, Mississippi, was in Taylorsville, about 100 miles from home, working a short-term gig. His mother said he was saving up to reopen the seafood restaurant, which was closed during the pandemic and named after his 7-year-old daughter, Kali.
“That was his goal,” he said. “That’s why he went back to work.”
But while at the construction site in October, Carter had an argument with at least one co-worker and fled, fearing for his life, his mother said.
“He said, ‘I had these men try to kill me,'” Carter’s mother recalled.
He advised Carter to go to the nearest police station for help but eventually lost contact with him.
Carter’s family and friends led their own search parties until his remains were discovered.
“I never imagined that I would continue to live without my child,” said Tiffany Carter. “When I lost my son, I lost a part of myself.”
Carter’s loved ones said he worked hard to provide for his daughter, paid her private school tuition and made his friends and family proud.
“He kept all his promises,” said Cali’s mother, Justiss White. “She called every day. They were on the phone for hours like teenagers. Every day she brings him up.”
Tiffany Carter vowed to keep fighting for answers.
“They thought he was going to be a kid that nobody cared about,” she said. “They are obviously wrong. Because it was somebody.”