Law officers look back at 2013 events

Published 11:14am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As the year comes to an end, a recent murder at the Hayes Trailer Park disrupted an unusually slow holiday season for crime, according to Brookhaven Chief of Police Bobby Bell in a recent interview.

Bell on Friday recalled his term so far as chief, a post he has held since the June elections when he took over for Pap Henderson, who retired. Despite seeing a decrease in homicides for the year overall, a death that occurred Sunday night put an end to “one of the quietest holiday seasons” the chief has ever seen.

Sunday night, Don Bolds allegedly shot and killed Trevor Williams, 18, leaving the city with three homicides just one day short of the New Year. (Please see separate story on the shooting.)

Two other murders occurred in Brookhaven in 2013, a total that does not include an accessory to murder charge faced by a former Brookhaven police officer in a McComb case.

In August, Jasper Cortez Pittman, 25, was charged with accessory to murder after the fact in the death of Kenneth Thompson, 53, of McComb. At the time, Pittman had been a police officer with the Brookhaven Police Department for just 15 days.

In October, David Jones Jr., 29, of 421 North Seventh St. and Kevin Collins, 48, of 1303 North Center St., allegedly shot and killed 24-year-old Darion Reese, 24, after a reported altercation between at least two of the men. The incident occurred in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon near the intersection of East Monticello St. and North Martin Luther King Drive.

On Oct. 30, Brookhaven police found a McComb man shot to death on an extension of South Washington Street. Days later, the BPD arrested two of the suspects in the murder: Karal Sham Lyons, 28, of 401 Crooked Lane was charged with murder, and Shanta Dunnigan, 37, of 334 East Minnesota St. was charged with accessory to murder after the fact by the BPD. On Nov. 19, the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Department arrested a third suspect, Jerry Doss, of 3102 Eden St., in Ridgecrest, La., on a murder warrant issued by the BPD.

In all the homicide cases this year, the suspects have been apprehended, said Bell. “We take pride in the fact that we never have had an unsolved murder in Brookhaven … in over 32 years.”

In September, the BPD, in cooperation with the Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Unit, arrested 13 suspects in a drug raid that yielded 24.9 pounds of marijuana, 1.6 ounces of crack cocaine, 4.8 ounces of powder cocaine and 10 semi-automatic handguns.

Looking back to June when he became chief, Bell said “I’ve always felt a heavy sense of responsibility with the job. It’s something you should feel as an officer of the peace. But now, as chief, I feel like the whole town falls right on top of my shoulders,” Bell said.

“It’s a burden that I am thankful for. I love all facets of the job. It’s something I take a great deal of pride in doing,” continued Bell.

In the county, Sheriff Steve Rushing said drug arrests played a prominent role in enforcement for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. Since September of 2006, Rushing has overseen the Lincoln County sheriff’s office. Now in his seventh year with the department, Rushing says the department saw an increase in specific areas of crime.

“Looking back over the year, we have put a lot of effort into drug enforcement. I would say drug enforcement and property crimes have been two particular areas that have demanded our attention,” Rushing said.

Besides numerous other similarities, the chief and sheriff share the same overall law enforcement philosophy. Both men believe it is essential to maintain a high degree of visibility in the community.

In Bell’s case, this means roadblocks and traffic stops at numerous locations one night at a time. For Rushing, it means his team of deputies maintains a constant state of patrol throughout the area.

“Prevent, serve and protect is the motto I want the department to follow,” said Bell.

“We definitely want to be seen in the community. This develops a bond with the public that helps us do our job,” Rushing said.

The recent passage of a municipal liquor ordinance led some Brookhaven citizens to wonder what kind of effect this would have on crime in the community. According to Bell and Rushing, there haven’t been any notable anomalies.

“Increased incidents of crime related to alcohol haven’t resulted from the new ordinance to this point,” said Chief Bell. “This includes drunk driving.”

Rushing concurs.

 

“This is one of those things that remains to be seen. The ordinance just passed, and so we are still waiting to see what kind of effect it will have on crime. To this point, though, not much has changed,” said Rushing.

Mississippi House Bill 2, which clarified the definition of a concealed weapon in July, led to the state attorney general’s office’s opinion that sheriffs, as custodians of the courtroom, are responsible for determining whether or not weapons will be allowed inside courthouses.

In turn, Rushing decided not to allow the open-carry of guns in the courthouse. Soon after, the board of supervisors issued a temporary order to restrict guns as much as possible from county buildings.

“This refers to open-carry, not concealed carry, said Rushing.

Likewise, city aldermen approved an ordinance banning all weapons on any municipal property in early July.

As part of his campaign promise, Bell continues to update, and modernize the record-keeping system at the department.

“We are making all the records digital. This is in keeping with my campaign promise. It’s an ongoing process that will continue into the New Year,” Bell said.

Like Bell, Rushing intends to modernize his department. One of the areas of focus Rushing is looking into concerns issues that have plagued law enforcement departments across the nation in recent years.

In September, Pike National Bank and Trustmark Bank had to re-issue debit cards due to a computer system breach that led to fraudulent activity. In recent days, Target experienced the same problems.

“We are becoming better acquainted with tracking credit card fraud and other forms of electronic theft or forgeries. This is a crime that has increased recently. We need to catch up,” Rushing noted.