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January 13, 2007
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Student-officer scuffle spawns $1M suit in Miss.

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By HOLBROOK MOHR Associated Press Writer

GREENWOOD, Miss.- A videotaped scuffle between a black teenager and a white police officer who twice pulled his gun in a crowded high school hall has prompted a $1 million lawsuit, accusations of racism and calls for the officer's dismissal.

The Dec. 6 school surveillance tapes that show the officer pointing his gun at the back of the unarmed teenager's head were released Jan. 5 as part of discovery in student James Marshall's lawsuit.

Marshall, an 18-year-old senior at Greenwood High School, said that during the scuffle Officer Casey Wiggins "was cursing, saying he was going to kill me."

But the officer's attorney, Mitchell Creel, says the student was "acting up."

"It's clear from the videos my client was doing his job and conducting himself as any security officer would under similar circumstances," Creel said. "It clearly shows Officer Wiggins has done no wrong _ absolutely no wrong."

Marshall and his family have filed a criminal affidavit against Wiggins for assault and battery and a civil complaint in state court against the city seeking $1 million in damages. Carlos Moore, the student's attorney, also wants Wiggins fired.

Wiggins must work under the direct control of a certified police officer because he is still a trainee, said Robert Davis, director of Law Enforcement Standards and Training for the Department of Public Safety. In Mississippi, police officers can serve for up to two years as trainees before they get their state certification.

There were no other police officers visible in the video of the scuffle.

Assistant Chief Huntley Nevels confirmed Thursday that Wiggins is still on the force, but referred all other questions to the city attorney, who declined to comment.

Wiggins' police report says he saw Marshall and two other students standing in a circle, "looking at something the suspect was holding." The officer claims that when he approached, Marshall became "hostile" and began to struggle.

"I then fell to the ground, he was still grabbing me so I reached and pulled my firearm," Wiggins' report says.

Marshall says he was just showing off his new tattoo _ his name on his left forearm _ when the officer accosted him.

Wiggins arrested the student for simple assault, but police never filed charges.

Moore said the officer is a "loose cannon" and that race "played a part in the aftermath because the officer was not punished for what he did."

© 2007 The Associated Press

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