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Mississippi cop resigns after threat to black motorist recorded on body cam

COLUMBUS, Miss. — A white Mississippi police officer is resigning after video from his body camera showed him berating a black motorist during a traffic stop and saying he could shoot into the car if the man failed to keep hands on the steering wheel.

A citizens’ committee reviewed the video and unanimously recommended that Columbus officer Keith Dowd be fired, The Commercial Dispatch reported. Dowd submitted a letter late Thursday saying he will resign Monday, city spokesman Joe Dillon said. Dowd had been suspended with pay.

The Rev. Steven James, chairman of the Columbus Police Department’s Citizen Overview Committee, said he found Dowd’s actions during the traffic stop to be unacceptable.

“We cannot and will not tolerate any officer who conducts himself in the manner we saw on the video,” James said.

The newspaper obtained the Aug. 18 video through a public records request and posted it online this week. The 13-minute video captured Dowd repeatedly asking whether the driver had been smoking marijuana. Dowd said he could “empty a magazine into the car” if the driver took his hands off the steering wheel.

Columbus Police Chief Oscar Lewis initially gave Dowd a written reprimand and didn’t recommend suspension or termination. Mayor Robert Smith and the city attorney, Jeff Turnage, reopened the investigation last week after watching the body camera footage.

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Lewis was asked after the citizens’ committee met Thursday if he would handle Dowd’s case the same way again.

“I was kind of hoping to see if we could salvage Officer Dowd,” the police chief said. “But with the committee and everybody coming together and the different talks and conversations that have been coming together, I can understand why they feel the way they feel.”

Dowd previously worked for the Jackson Police Department and served on the police force of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. As a Jackson officer, the newspaper reported, Dowd was suspended for 15 days for handcuffing a local television station videographer for trying to film the scene of a fatal wreck involving another officer.