Jonas Causey

Background

On May 10, 1959, Jonas Causey, 70 years old, was shot and killed in his home in Clarksdale, Mississippi by law enforcement. Earlier that day, Causey shot two white men, killing one and wounding the other. According to a statement made by Causey’s widow, Elnora, the men threatened and harassed the Causeys the previous night, and began firing on their house in the morning. After one of the bullets struck Mrs. Causey in her thigh, Mr. Causey shot back, killing one of the men, Orville Bailey, as he advanced onto the Causeys’ property. Causey shot and wounded the other man, Bunion Knight, when he continued to shoot from his truck. Knight drove away and arrived at the home of a woman, Mrs. Catalina, who lived about three miles south of Clarksdale. Bloody and clearly intoxicated, Knight told her what happened and asked her to call the police. She reported the incident to the Clarksdale Police Department.

Armed with shotguns, rifles and tear gas, Sheriff Leighton Miller accompanied by deputies and about eight police officers went to the Causey home. The officers fired tear gas shells into the house, which caused Mrs. Causey to exit the home. However, Jonas Causey, who suffered from mental illness, yelled that he was too scared to leave. As they surrounded the house, officers reportedly heard Mr. Causey having an imaginary conversation with President Eisenhower. After their efforts to draw Causey outside failed, the officers shot into the house and killed him. The Sheriff remarked, “We did a lot of yelling for him to come out, but he wouldn’t and finally we just all shot in there and killed him.”

Legal Status

Aaron Henry, then President of the Coahoma County Branch of the NAACP, requested an FBI investigation. Henry sought to have the Mississippi division of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigate the case. Although the Clarksdale police sent a report to J. Edgar Hoover, then FBI Director, the FBI did not investigate the shooting. Neither the local police nor the Sheriff conducted any investigation.