MAY 12, 1967

Benjamin Brown, a former civil rights organizer, was shot in the back on this day in Jackson, Mississippi. 

Brown had walked with a friend into the Kon-Tiki Café to pick up a sandwich to take home to his wife. On his way back, he encountered a standoff between law enforcement officers and Jackson State University students, who had been hurling rocks and bottles at them. Brown was hit in the back by three shotgun blasts. No arrests were ever made, and the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission gathered spy files on the students who protested. 

Eyewitnesses pointed their fingers at then-Mississippi Highway Patrolman Lloyd Jones, who reportedly admitted his involvement in the killing. When some accused a Jackson police detective of killing Brown, Jones was quoted as replying that the detective “didn’t shoot that n—–, I did.” 

Jones was quoted as saying that he took the shotgun home, cleaned it, wrapped it in a blanket and placed it in an attic for a few months before returning it to service. Jones was never charged and in 1995 was killed while working as sheriff in Simpson County.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.