The family and friends of 53-year-old Native American man, Rexdale Henry, don't know what happened to the Choctaw activist prior to his death, but they know it probably wasn't right. Arrested for failure to pay a fine on July 9, Henry's lifeless body was found in his Neshoba County, Mississippi, jail cell five days later on July 14 — just one day after the highly publicized death of Sandra Bland, a black woman who was found dead of apparent suicide in a Waller County, Texas jail on July 13. Although an autopsy was performed by the state, Henry's family, unsatisfied with the proceedings, has insisted that a second, independent autopsy also be performed by a private medical examiner. To date, however, the Mississippi band of Choctaw Indians, unsure of what happened to Rexdale Henry, have not provided any direct statements to the media.
A family spokesman was more vocal about Henry's death, telling the Jackson Free Press that Henry should never have been in the jail cell to begin with. "His fines shouldn't have lead to his death," said John Steele on Monday. "[They] couldn't have been that bad." Bustle has reached out to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians for additional comment and is awaiting a reply.
The publication reported that, according to a Neshoba County Justice Court clerk, Henry had an aggregated sum of around $2,700 spread out over seven separate traffic fines, but that the total could have risen due to late fees, or fallen due to missed payments.
According to officials, Henry was found by officers around 10 a.m. on the morning of July 14, just 30 minutes after authorities say he was last seen alive. Details were scarce, and a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Attorney General's Office explained to Bustle on Tuesday that officials could "neither confirm, deny nor comment on any investigation if there is an investigation with [their] office."
Henry's funeral was held in Bogue Chitto on July 19 and drew a large crowd of mourners looking to pay their respects, said Steele, speaking with Jackson Free Press reporters on Tuesday.
"He was a great family man and just tried to help his people, the Choctaw tribe," said Steele. "He had a closeness with everyone in the community."
A group of anonymous donors were able to arrange for Henry's body to be flown to Florida last week for the second, independent autopsy. Henry's family and friends, meanwhile, remain baffled by the incident.
According to jail paperwork, Henry was not suffering from any medical complications at the time of his booking; instead, remarked Steele, Henry had been an avid stickball and softball coach in the community and had been a candidate for the Choctaw Tribal Council prior to his arrest.
A full inquiry into Henry's death by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is currently underway. The medical examiner who conducted the state autopsy has not yet released its final verdict.
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