Officials: Seizure of hanged teen's computer no 'Waco-style raid'

COLUMBIA, Miss. - Officials released a videotape of their seizure of a computer owned by a black teen who was found hanged, saying it showed they did not conduct a ''Waco-style'' raid as critics had charged.

The 20-minute tape, released Sunday, is meant to put to rest concerns regarding the seizure Friday of Raynard Johnson's computer, Marion County District Attorney Claiborne McDonald said.

On June 16, Johnson, 17, was found hanging from a pecan tree in the front yard of his Kokomo home.

Two autopsies - one commissioned by the family - showed Johnson's injuries were consistent with suicide. But the teen's relatives say they believe Raynard was lynched because of his friendship with two white girls, a sentiment shared by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

During a teleconference with reporters Saturday, Jackson accused the deputies and agents of a ''Waco-style raid'' on the Johnson home.

Investigators had wanted Johnson's computer to see if he saved notes that could shed light on his death. His family, however, had refused to give it up to anyone but agents from Washington.

A judge issued a search warrant Friday. Authorities said they felt they had waited a respectable time for the computer to be turned over.

Shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, two deputies arrived at the Johnson home and explained the situation to Rondell Johnson, Raynard's older brother. In all, 12 federal, state and county agents went to the home, but they did not all go inside, officials said.

The videotape, reviewed by The Sun Herald of Gulfport, shows no indication of tension, and the only weapons seen were the sidearms worn by on-duty officers. But Jackson said Monday that the seizure was ''gestapo-like'' because of the sheer number of investigators and the fact that Raynard's parents were out of town.

''Seizing it was dramatic and unnecessary,'' he said. ''The computer was not someplace in hiding.''

On the tape, sheriff's investigator Doug Barnes speaks with a relative and enters the Johnson home. He and others are then seen giving a copy of the search warrant to Rondell Johnson, preparing an inventory sheet of items seized, and telling relatives the computer would be taken to the FBI office in New Orleans.


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