Man jailed in shooting of deputy

Published 7:30 pm Sunday, January 27, 2013

Friday night gunfire in Brookhaven left a Lincoln County deputy sheriff wounded, a man in jail and questions that still haven’t been answered.

An investigator with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Byron Catchings, was driving on Union Street Friday night when a shot from a private residence hit and pierced the driver’s side door of his unmarked Dodge Charger at approximately 8 p.m., said Sheriff Steve Rushing.

Catchings was released from the hospital Saturday night and is at home, the sheriff said.

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Authorities have arrested and charged a man they initially described as a “person of interest.”

Mario Black, 28, of 820 Union St., is charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, possession of a firearm by a felon and shooting into an occupied vehicle.

Authorities believe the shot that struck Catchings originated from Black’s Union Street address.

The cause of the shooting remains under investigation.

“It appears there was some kind of verbal disagreement or an argument that my deputy was not part of,” Rushing said. “From what we understand a shot was discharged by Mr. Black.”

Catchings had not been dispatched to the address but only happened to be driving by at the time of the altercation, the sheriff said.

Whether Black intended to shoot Catchings or his vehicle has not been determined yet.

Authorities are continuing to question witnesses to the incident.

About 30 minutes to an hour after the gunfire, Black was picked up by law enforcement a block or two away from the site of the shooting, said Rushing.

Authorities also recovered the weapon they believe was used in the shooting, a .38-caliber revolver.

Black has a prior felony conviction, but Rushing was unable to provide the details of that conviction.

Because Catchings is a deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, protocol calls for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to take charge of the case.

Likewise, Black is being held in Copiah County rather than the Lincoln County jail, though his prosecution will be handled by the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office.

Rushing does not anticipate any further arrests stemming from the incident.

Catchings, who was on patrol Friday night, did not immediately realize he’d been shot.

“He started feeling some pain on his lower back area,” Rushing said. “He knew something was wrong.”

The 10-year deputy drove to Advance Auto Parts, located at the corner of Monticello and Church Street and radioed in the incident.

After plans to airlift him fell through, he was driven by ambulance to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

He was released at approximately 3:30 a.m. Saturday, but he’s still carrying the bullet.

“They weren’t able to remove the bullet, so that’s going to be an issue for him later on,” Rushing said. “It’s lodged in an area where there aren’t any major organs, so they decided just to leave it for now and address it later on.”

Catchings is married with three children. In addition to his investigative duties, he also teaches DARE classes for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

His wounds could have been much worse.

“He was definitely blessed,” Rushing said. “If the bullet had moved over another quarter of an inch he would have had some major problems.”

And though his injuries weren’t more severe, the event remains sobering and the Friday night phone call he received reporting it remains stark in the sheriff’s mind.

Said Rushing of that phone call, “It’s the one you dread to get and can never be prepared for.”