Advocates are raising the names of Debbie Loggins and Robert Loggins after the mother and son were both killed while in police restraints 13 years apart, with no accountability.
An investigative report by NBC News in collaboration with The Marshall Project and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered the tragic similarities between the deaths of Debbie Loggins and her 26-year-old son, Robert.
In the early morning hours of September 17, 2005, deputies with the Carroll County Police Department responded to a call about a fight involving two women. When officers arrived they reportedly found Debbie Loggins tussling with another woman and that when they tried to break up the fight, Debbie became “verbally and physically combative,” Don Gray, the sheriff at the time, said.
Officers placed Debbie into handcuffs and leg shackles but said “it wasn’t enough” so they hog-tied her and placed her in the back of a squad car while she was still in the prone position –– a move law enforcement experts say is deadly.
A lawsuit filed by her estate shows deputies claimed Debbie “continued to squirm, kick, and twist even after being hogtied” but that on the way to the jail, she became quiet and her breathing may have stopped. Deputies claim they didn’t notice, and once they arrived at the jail attempted to perform CPR. Debbie was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
A judge dismissed Debbie’s estate’s claims that officers violated her constitutional rights, stating that the restraints were “reasonable.”
The coroner in Debbie’s case suggested that bloodwork be done to test and rule out positional asphyxia, but the medical examiner, the late Dr. Steven Hayne, didn’t mention asphyxia in his findings and ruled that Debbie had died of heatstroke, and the cause accidental.
Her son, Robert Loggins was just 13 years old at the time of her death and “it gave him a different outlook on the world and the officers,” Jessica Hayes, Robert’s sister, told the news outlet.
The tragic loss of his mother was compounded by his grandmother’s death which led to a struggle in school and behavioral and mental problems which he received psychiatric treatment for. Robert eventually turned to marijuana and meth to escape, his father, Robert Ford, said.
Robert began committing burglaries and other crimes to fund his addiction. In 2010, at age 17, he was arrested for stealing tires and wheels from a car and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In 2015, we was released on parole, married, had a son, began working and earned his GED. He started to put himself through community college to learn welding and even won local writing contests but the addiction came up again.
He enrolled in two rehab programs but was rearrested in 2018 for violating his parole.
“It’s kind of hard to talk about, but he was calling me, ‘Dad,’ and he was crying,” Ford recalled. “I told him, ‘Son, it’s going to be all right.'”
Ford went to pick up his son after he was freed months later in November. All Robert could talk about was going to see his child in Oxford, about 50 miles away. Ford offered to take Loggins there over the weekend, but never got the chance.
On November 29, 2018, a 911 call was placed by a homeowner who told the dispatcher there was someone in her backyard calling for help.
Five members of the Grenada Police Department responded to the call. When they arrived, they found Robert faced down with his hands underneath his stomach.
Officers barked orders to put his hands behind his back. When Robert, who was reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis, didn’t put his hands behind his back, officers used a taser on the 26-year-old eight times.
He was handcuffed and left in the prone position on the floor of the jail. A supervisor noticed that he might be in distressed, but officers waved off her concern.
After a while, the jailer told officers he needed his handcuffs back, at least four law enforcement officers piled on top of Robert to remove the cuffs from his wrists. They were on top of him for more than three minutes. When they got up, Robert didn’t move.
“He’s bleeding from his mouth. He’s bleeding from his legs,” the jail supervisor told 911. She was again waved off before an ambulance finally came. But they couldn’t revive Robert. They transported him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The state medical examiner in both cases ruled Robert’s death an accident just like his mother’s.
In Robert’s case, the medical examiner said Robert’s death was caused by meth intoxication. The jailhouse video that shows Robert’s final moments is no where in the autopsy notes.
Dr. Mark LeVaughn, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy was placed on administrative leave in November 2020 after a unspecified investigation led by the state attorney general. LeVaughn resigned in January of this year.
In April, the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting released a story about Robert and Debbie Loggins, the findings of their autopsies and law enforcement’s statements about the deaths.
As a result, Rep. Bennie Thompson and other Mississippi leaders called on US Attorney General Merrick Garland to open an investigation. Robert’s father confirmed to NBC that he has spoken to the FBI, though the Bureau didn’t comment on the matter.
Over the summer, Ford and other protesters gathered outside of the jail where Robert died, calling for justice and accountability.
“He didn’t deserve to die like that,” Ford said of his son.
To read more about Debbie and Robert Loggins and the legal battle to get law enforcement accountability in their deaths, please click here.
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.