Pittman had been fired in McComb

Published 3:58 pm Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Brookhaven police officer who was arrested in connection with a murder in Pike County Monday had been fired by the McComb Police Department prior to his hiring in Brookhaven, according to McComb Police Chief Greg Martin.

In a story in the Wednesday McComb Enterprise-Journal, Martin disputed remarks by Brookhaven Police Chief Bobby Bell quoted in a Tuesday night online Daily Leader story and Wednesday print story. In The Daily Leader article, Bell said Pittman had come highly recommended by McComb police.

In an interview this morning with The Daily Leader, Bell said the arrest of the now former Brookhaven police officer Jasper Cortez Pittman, 25, came as a shock to him. Pittman was arrested Monday by Pike County authorities in connection with the murder of Kenneth Thompson, 53, of 611 24th St., McComb.

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Pittman, who lives at 1025 Josephine Drive, McComb, was charged with accessory after the fact to murder, district attorney Dee Bates said. Other charges against him include arson, conspiracy to commit arson and sexual battery.

Thompson’s body was found in a shallow grave on Pittman’s property. An affidavit filed by Pike County Sheriff’s Department investigators reveals that Pittman had a sexual relationship with Thompson’s 14-year-old son.

When interviewed this morning, Bell said Pittman had been recommended to him by McComb Police Chief Greg Martin and Summit Police Chief Kenny Cotton.

Tuesday night, Bell and the Brookhaven board of aldermen terminated Pittman from the Brookhaven police department. He had been on the job in Brookhaven for only 15 days. Pittman had previously served nearly a year as a McComb police officer but was terminated following a disciplinary hearing concerning the reckless pursuit of a suspect.

When interviewed by The Daily Leader this morning, Chief Martin said he did explain to Bell when asked about Pittman that there had been other issues that included reprimands and written warnings to Pittman for not following McComb police department policies.

“I fully explained to Bell as I did other departments that called about Pittman why he was fired and that he was not eligible for re-hire in McComb,” Martin said.

“He had a history of problems within the department,” Martin said. “They were all things that required documentation and written warnings. He was a polite young man and amenable, but he just could not follow my policies.”

Martin explained that the final infraction involved a police pursuit and after viewing the video Martin saw that Pittman had endangered citizens and had destroyed property and had clearly violated the department’s policies on vehicular chases.

Interviewed this morning, Bell recalled speaking with Chief Martin, explaining that Brookhaven Police Department has a no-chase policy.

“I spoke with Chief Martin and with [Summit Police] Chief Kenny Cotton,” Bell said. “He told me he was a good kid, but that he’d had issues with getting him to follow his policies concerning police pursuit. I have a strict no-chase policy, and Martin responded that if that were the case, then he should make a good officer for Brookhaven.”

Bell said that Cotton knew him as a child growing up and told him that he was a good kid. Bell said that his resume looked good, too.

“We have to realize he looked good on paper, too,” Bell said. “He served in the U.S. Army with an honorable discharge, and he currently serves in the National Guard.” Bell added that officers on the Brookhaven force foresaw no issue with Pittman either.

“I spoke with officers here that he was in training with,” Bell said. “They all said that he had been very polite and easy to get along with.”

In a phone interview, Martin said that recently he’d begun to think there might be deeper issues with Pittman.

“He reapplied with us only two weeks after we terminated him – I found this disturbing, considering the infraction and the results of his disciplinary hearing. That’s when I started to think something may be wrong with this young man.”

Martin said the whole situation was regrettable.

“This was an awful thing that happened,” Martin said. “A man was looking for his son, a troubled boy, and he lost his life over it.”

Thompson, who had reported his son missing, had allegedly been looking for him prior to his murder.

Thompson’s son, Blake Thompson, 14, who lived at the same address as his father in McComb, has now been charged in connection with his father’s death. The younger Thompson has been charged with murder, arson and conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit arson.

Others charged in the case are Greg Antonio Fortenberry, 26, of 1235 Witterman St., McComb, who has been charged with murder, arson and conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit arson, and LeJarrius Perkins, 17, of 618 South Fourth St., McComb, who was charged with murder, arson and conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit arson.