EDITORIAL/Justice For Cortez
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:00 AM
When 28-year-old Cortez Aliandiae "Dre" Coburn - probably high, maybe intoxicated - ran from Leake County Sheriff's deputies in the predawn hours of Jan. 29, it was 16 degrees. He wouldn't have lasted long in the slough anyway.
The Philadelphia man drowned accidentally face down in two feet of water after fleeing the Leake deputies near rural Edinburg, according to an autopsy report by Leake County Coroner Earl Adams.
The case was presented to a grand jury last week at the request of the Leake County Sheriff, District Attorney Mark Duncan said.
No criminal wrongdoing was found. There was no sign of a struggle.
Still, questions remain.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) took the lead, but only in what appears to be nothing more than a formality.
Coburn, a Louisville native employed at Tyson Foods, would have turned 29 on Sunday. He liked action films and one of his favorite television shows was "Family Guy." A Facebook page he liked was "I Know The Bible Is Right."
While a thankless, stressful and even a dangerous profession, law enforcement is not above the law or human decency.
Most law enforcement officers here are good public servants. Sheriff's deputies - even if they're in an adjoining county - being the last to see a black man alive does have a particular, undeniable significance in Neshoba County, however.
Leake deputies at 3:16 a.m. had received a report of a suspicious vehicle at Eagle Park off Mars Hill Road about 1.3 miles north of the Edinburg One-Stop.
Officers arrived to find Coburn parked in a gold Chevrolet Caprice where he told deputies he'd run out of gas.
They smelled marijuana, saw a can of beer in the vehicle and found an unloaded pistol in the glove compartment. Questioned about old misdemeanor fines after a background check, Coburn ran, the deputies said.
Friends and family say Coburn was not that way, he wouldn't run. They've set up a Facebook page "Justice for Cortez 'Dre' Coburn" and a web site, http://justiceforcortez.com, and @justice4cortez on Twitter.
They have, however, declined to speak to the Democrat.
Leake deputies gave chase briefly, returned to their patrol cars and towed Coburn's vehicle. The deputies patrolled the road for "hours" thinking Coburn would emerge since it was so cold, the DA said.
For all they knew, Coburn was a serial killer who would emerge from the slough, force his way into a dwelling and hack a family to death, right?
Maybe not. Leake deputies didn't mention Coburn after giving up their search until Philadelphia police came looking days after the family filed a missing persons report, days after he ran into the woods.
Leake authorities had Coburn's car and his phone? Yet, not a word. The family suggests Coburn had a phone. The DA said law enforcement never found one.
The family claims they haven't been contacted by law enforcement.
What did Leake know about Coburn?
The area, predominantly white, is actually fairly populated to be so removed.
Was the public safety threat severe enough to warrant a manhunt?
There was enough suspicion to question Coburn, but, when he suddenly fled, all suspicion evaporated into the freezing thin air?
Coburn was wearing sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt, the coroner said, but when was his cell phone used last? Was his car indeed out of gas?
Now let's get this right. It was 16 degrees. A man was sitting in a car on a rural Leake Country road, out of gas. He was 20 miles from home in Philadelphia, yet never made a call for help?
Even if we accept one notion Coburn was up to no good and deserved no protection from the law since he fled, what about the threat to public safety?
Exactly how high on marijuana would one have to be to fall flat on his face and drown in two feet of water?
The Coburn case demands a more thorough accounting.