Como Police Chief Earl Burdette and Deputy Chief Cornelia Faye Pettis have filed suit seeking $2.5 million in damages from Panola County, Sheriff Dennis Darby and sheriff’s deputies, alleging that the Panola authorities “unlawfully restrained, detained, and imprisoned” them during the investigation into a Nov. 14 shooting at Como Apartments.
The 18-page complaint, filed Dec. 30 in Mississippi Northern District Federal Court for Burdette and Pettis by attorney Edward Blackmon Jr. of Canton, alleges an “unlawful seizure and takeover of the Como Mississippi Police Station, … physical, emotional and mental injuries” to Burdette and Pettis, and “malicious detention and confinement” of Pettis at the Como police station and Burdette both at the police station and later at the Panola County jail.
The lawsuit accuses the county, through actions of the sheriff and deputies, of denying Burdette and Pettis the right to due process and to equal protection of the laws guaranteed in the Constitution, citing the Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments, among others.
The lawsuit names the sheriff, Chief Deputy Chris Franklin, deputies Danny Beavers and Emily Griffin and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Agent Heath Farish as present in the police station and/or at the Como Apartments in addition to Burdette and Pettis as well as “John and Jane Does 1-10.”
A complaint represents one side of a legal argument.
Following the Nov. 14 incident, Sheriff Darby told The Panolian that he was confident his department was “… 100 percent in the right.”
The incident began at the Como Apartments on Church Street after Bobby F. Boyce was shot.
The altercation between the sheriff and the Como chief attracted regional media attention. District Attorney John Champion talked to both men following their altercation and said, “the sheriff has jurisdiction over every inch of Panola County.” Champion later added, “The sheriff and the chief, they are going to have to get this resolved.”
Boyce had earlier been arrested and charged with capital murder in the August 23 murder of Roderick Bobo in a shooting on North Panola High School grounds following a football game. However, the Panola First District Grand Jury meeting in November did not indict Boyce or two other men similarly charged, indicting them only for possessing and displaying in a threatening manner a handgun on school grounds.
The week following Boyce’s shooting at the Como Apartments, law enforcement officials arrested a 24-year-old parolee for shooting Boyce. Jermichael Korveil Edwards, 321 Church St., Como was apprehended by the U. S. Marshals Service in Tate County after a tip from a citizen about his location, Panola County Chief Deputy Chris Franklin said.
County officials, including the sheriff, were served notice of the lawsuit on Jan.7, according to court documents.
“We notify the county’s insurance carrier and they will assign insurance defense counsel,” Panola County Board of Supervisors’ attorney Bill McKenzie said.
Burdette and Pettis are both former Panola deputy sheriffs.
In a separate lawsuit Burdette filed against the county and the sheriff Nov. 21, Burdette alleges that his dismissal as a deputy was prompted by his demand in April, 2012, to be paid overtime under the terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The complaint in the November lawsuit, filed on Burdette’s behalf by Jackson attorney Omar L. Nelson, demands a jury trial to recover overtime alleged to be due Burdette for all hours over 40 per work week during his service as a deputy from 2001 to 2012.
Daniel J. Griffith of the Cleveland law firm of Griffith and Griffith represents the county in the overtime lawsuit. In December, the court extended the deadline for the filing of the county’s response to the suit to Jan. 14.