Investigator says body camera footage shows shooting of Brookhaven police officers

Published 3:19 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The lead investigator looking into the murder of two Brookhaven police officers testified Tuesday that police body camera footage shows the state’s only suspect pulling the trigger.

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Luke Harrington said body camera footage collected from deceased Brookhaven Police Department officers James White and Zach Moak, as well as approximately three other cameras, shows 26-year-old Marquis Aaron Flowers killed both officers. Harrington told the court during Flowers’ preliminary hearing Tuesday the suspect allegedly killed White, the first to arrive on the scene, with a shot to the head, then killed Moak with several shots to the body.

“(The video) depicts the officers responding to this call, and it depicts Mr. Flowers shooting and killing the officers,” Harrington said.

At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Flowers’ case was bound over to the Lincoln County Grand Jury after Lincoln County Justice Court Judge Roger Martin found sufficient evidence for the case to go forward and denied bail. Martin stepped in to take the case over from Brookhaven City Court Judge Brad Boerner, who recused himself from the case after realizing his law firm was handling the estate of James White.

Flowers is charged with two counts of capital murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Lincoln County Assistant District Attorney Brendon Adams said Flowers’ charges could warrant the death penalty.

Lincoln County District Attorney Dee Bates said his office would present Flowers’ case to the grand jury as soon as the investigation wraps up and all evidence from the crime lab is returned. He declined to answer any questions about the specifics of the case.

“We’re moving forward as fast as we can on this,” Bates said.

The county’s grand jury meets six times each year.

Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins declined to comment on any specifics, saying only that he would let the courts do the work. He later spoke about the community in a message seeking calm and unity.

“You can never let hate rise up — if you do, it’s hard to get it back in the bottle,” Collins said. “We’ve got to protect the community and protect these families. We have to protect the officers’ families, and we have to protect Flowers’ family, too. If you let anger or hate rule your actions, you’re not in control of yourself.”

Harrington also testified Flowers confessed to shooting both officers accidentally while exchanging gunfire with unknown suspects who may have shot Flowers numerous times to generate the “shots fired” call before officers arrived. Moments before his death, White reported finding a white Cadillac Escalade full of bullet holes and containing blood in the driver’s seat.

“(Flowers talked about) where he’d been that day, what happened during the incident — he stated the ‘cops were caught in my crossfire, and it was bound to happen,’” Harrington said.

Harrington said no other people were on the scene at the time the officers were killed.

Flowers’ defense attorney, Price Henley, asked Harrington if Flowers had been shot “seven or eight times” in the gun battle preceding the police officers’ deaths, but Harrington said only that Flowers was wounded and receiving medical attention while able to stand and support his own weight. The investigator said evidence taken from the scene for both incidents is still being processed at the state crime lab, and investigations into both incidents is continuing.

Harrington said he could not recall the type of handgun recovered from the scene, which he said was “three inches” from Flowers’ hand, nor the types of shell casings collected as evidence.

Harrington, who has handled the investigation into the murders since the morning of Sept. 29, 2018, when both officers were killed while responding to a call of “shots fired” at a residence on North Sixth Street in Brookhaven, told the court further police footage obtained from dash cameras mounted in patrol vehicles was not useful in his investigation because the cars were pointed away from the scene.

When asked, Harrington told Henley body camera footage did not show the presence of anyone else, namely Brookhaven’s Lattrick Williams, who was arrested by a federal task force in McComb the week following the murders. Williams is in federal court for possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and faces drug and robbery charges in Lincoln County, but has not been charged in connection with the murders.

Brookhaven police have suspected Williams in numerous crimes and searched for him for a year before the task force took him in.

During questioning by Brookhaven City Prosecutor Cheli Durr, Harrington testified Flowers “knew or should have known” White and Moak were police officers when they arrived on-scene. He said he has conducted around 20 interviews — only one with Flowers — and sent DNA evidence to the crime lab.

Anferenee Cleveland, Flowers’ younger brother, said after the hearing the investigator’s claims do not make sense.

“I was told (Flowers) was shot eight, nine times, and I’m still trying to figure out how a man shot eight or nine times is capable of shooting two police officers,” he said.

Cleveland, who has defended Flowers on social media, said the original shots fired at Flowers may have been over a dispute concerning the Escalade. Harrington testified the vehicle was previously owned by a Brookhaven police officer, but was sold to an unknown new owner.