Jessie James Shelby, 23

Yazoo city, Mississippi
January 21, 1956

Agencies: Yazoo City Police department | Federal Bureau of Investigation - FBI

Cause of death: Shooting

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Last updated: almost 6 years ago


Jessie James Shelby, twenty-three years old, was shot and killed on January 21, 1956 in Yazoo City, MS, by Yazoo City police officer Jolly C. Thompson. Yazoo policemen Jolly C. Thompson and Marlon Manor were responding to a disturbance call around midnight at the “Silver Slipper,” a Negro nightclub. When the police arrived, Jessie Shelby was arguing with his girlfriend, Ruby Lee Little. Officer Thompson pulled Shelby from the car and began to wrestle him to the ground. Shelby fought back until Thompson shot him in the stomach, fatally wounding him. Shelby had no weapon. He died later that evening at the local hospital. The officers alleged that Thompson shot Shelby in self-defense because Shelby grabbed Thompson’s blackjack and beat him on the head with it.

Legal Action

A coroner’s inquest was held on January 24, 1956. Justice of the Peace J.R. Shurley found the officer acted in self-defense and ruled the case a justifiable homicide. A news account quoted County Attorney Griffin Norquist, stating that four or five witnesses testified at the inquest, none of whom disputed officer Thompson’s account of the killing. No charges were brought against the Jolly C. Thompson. No known internal police investigation was conducted.

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