State Police investigating inmate suicide
LITTLE ROCK — Authorities are investigating after an inmate at an Arkansas prison died from an apparent suicide Saturday just after 6:30 p.m., said an Arkansas Department of Correction in a press release.
Officials say 33-year-old David Shabazz was found hanging in a locked single- man cell at the Randall Williams Unit in Pine Bluff.
Staff says Shabazz used a bed sheet to wrap around his neck and had tied clothing around the door to make it harder for officers to enter the cell.
When correctional officers opened the door, they began life-saving efforts until medical personnel arrived at the scene.
Shabazz was taken to the Jefferson Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m.
He was serving a 20-year sentence for the manufacture, deliver and possession of a controlled substance.
Shabazz was sentenced Feb. 21, 2002 in Miller County and was paroled in August 2007 but absconded supervision four times.
He was sent to the Division of Community Correction’s Omega Supervision Sanction Center for absconding on Aug. 16, 2019.
Then he was transferred back to the ADC Dec. 4, 2019, as a discipline problem.
According to the release, Shabazz was in restrictive housing at the Randall Williams Unit for a rule violation since Dec. 12, 2019.
Officials say he was in restrictive housing at the time of the hanging.
Shabazz’s body has been sent to the medical examiner’s office to determine the cause of death.
Arkansas State Police are investigating his death.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennesse governor Bill Lee will introduce legislation to amend a law requiring the state to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who went on to lead the Ku Klux Klan.
Lee’s office confirmed the Republican was working on the bill but did not provide further details.
According to state law, governors of Tennessee must sign six proclamations throughout the year designating days of special observance: Robert E Lee Day (19 January), Abraham Lincoln Day (12 February), Andrew Jackson Day (15 March), Confederate Decoration Day (3 June), Nathan Bedford Forrest Day (13 July) and Veterans’ Day (11 November).
The law encourages the governor to invite the public to observe each day in schools and churches. It does not outline a penalty should the governor choose not to sign the proclamation.
As of Saturday, the Tennessee secretary of state’s website did not show Lee had signed the Robert E Lee Day proclamation. His office did not respond to questions about whether Lee wanted to change the day celebrating that Confederate general, which falls the day before Martin Luther King Jr Day, a federal holiday named for a hero of the civil rights movement.
Previous proclamations have called Robert E Lee, who turned down a chance to lead the federal armies in the civil war and fought to secure secession and preserve slavery, “one of the outstanding Americans of the 19th century”.
Forrest, a cavalry general, amassed a fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader in Memphis before the civil war. The civil war historian Shelby Foote considered him one of two geniuses who shaped the conflict, Lincoln being the other.
But Forrest was in charge of Confederate troops during the battle of Fort Pillow, where an estimated 300 African American soldiers were massacred after surrendering in Tennessee in April 1864. The massacre provoked outrage in the north and was one of the most bitterly disputed incidents of the civil war.
Just 62 black soldiers survived what Union troops called a “massacre”. Forrest was questioned by Congress for war crimes.
After the war he was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a paramilitary terrorist group dedicated to suppressing the vote among African Americans.
The display of Confederate statues and symbols and the place of the Confederacy in southern culture has been increasingly at issue since summer 2015, when a white supremacist who posed with a Confederate battle flag killed nine churchgoers at a bible study group in an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Statues, memorials and flags have been removed from government buildings and public places.
In Memphis, Tennessee, parks named for Confederate leaders including Forrest have been renamed and statues, including one of Forrest, removed. The holiday named for Forrest has been questioned for some time.
In Tennessee, state senator Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat from Memphis, said: “I know that it’s hard to renegotiate history but at the end of the day we need to celebrate folks that bring people together and not necessarily tear people apart.
“I hope that we will consider that and reexamine all of these proclamations for state holidays.”
London Lamar, a Democratic state representative also from Memphis, is sponsoring a bill to remove the Forrest Day designation. Previous attempts to change the law have been unsuccessful.
Governor Lee was the subject national backlash last July when he not only signed the Nathan Bedford Forrest proclamation but also declined to answer reporters asking if he thought the law should change. He later said he did not like signing the proclamation and would prefer to see the law changed.
“While it is my job as governor to enforce the law, I want Tennesseans to know where my heart is on this issue,“ Lee said. “Our state’s history is rich, complex and in some cases painful. With this in mind, I will be working to change this law.”
Lawmakers have debated moving a bust of Forrest that has sat inside the Tennessee statehouse for decades. A state commission is scheduled to meet in February, months after Lee appointed two new members to the panel.