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Man indicted on capital murder charges in officers’ deaths; pleads not guilty

Marquis A. Flowers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges he shot to death two Brookhaven police officers in 2018. 

Flowers, 26, who was arrested following the deaths of Cpl. Zach Moak and patrol officer James White, was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of capital murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The indictment documents were released Tuesday morning. Flowers was formally arraigned shortly after in Lincoln County Circuit Court before Judge Michael Taylor.

According to the indictment, Flowers did “kill and murder a peace officer, James Kevin White” when White was acting in his official capacity. The indictment reads the same for the murder of Walter Zachery Marshall Moak when he was serving in his official capacity as a peace officer.

The third count is for possession of a firearm — a Diamondback model DB9 9mm semi-automatic pistol — by a convicted felon.

The indictment includes an enhancement to all counts because Flowers had been convicted at least twice of prior felonies.

Flowers was the only suspect in the shooting, according to officials. He was arrested at a residence on North Sixth Street in Brookhaven early on Sept. 29 following the shooting deaths of Moak and White. The officers responded to the home on a report of “shots fired” and found a bullet-pocked Cadillac Escalade with blood in the driver’s seat.

Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins said Moak exchanged shots with a suspect before his death, though it remains unclear who opened fire on the vehicle before police arrived.

Flowers appeared before Taylor in court Tuesday in a yellow MDOC jumpsuit and a thick blue hooded coat with “MDOC Convict” on the back. His hands were cuffed to a waist chain and he wore ankle restraints as well.

He was flanked by court-appointed attorneys Kelsey Rushing and M.A. Bass. Rushing is a staff attorney with the Office of State Public Defender, Capital Litigation Division, where he litigates death-eligible cases at the trial level. Bass is a Lincoln County public defender, certified in capital murder defense.

Members of the victims’ family in the courtroom included Moak’s parents, Marshall Moak and Vicki Moak, and his uncle, Chris Nations, and White’s father, Darrell White.

District attorney Dee Bates read the first two counts against Flowers, but Taylor waived the reading of the third count, which accuses Flowers of possessing the semi-automatic pistol while previously convicted.

Flowers pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

Taylor set the next hearing for Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. for the first motions hearings in the capital murder case.

“My plan is that we will have hearings at least monthly, to make sure all the motions are addressed in a timely manner and we will be available more often if needed,” he said.

Bass asked that Flowers, who is being held at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman — 186 miles away — be moved to a closer location. Bates would like to see Flowers moved to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, which is 62 miles from Brookhaven. Taylor did not make a decision Tuesday.

Flowers was out on parole at the time of the shootings after the state parole board released him.

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Luke Harrington said in court in January that camera footage shows Flowers killed both officers. Harrington told the court during Flowers’ preliminary hearing the suspect allegedly killed White, the first to arrive on the scene, then killed Moak.

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.

An MDOC employee who was disciplined after Flowers went unmonitored by a parole officer was found to be “least responsible” and his reprimand was reversed by the state Employee Appeals Board.

MDOC alleged that the employee should have issued a warrant for Flowers’ arrest when he could not be located — prior to the fatal shootings in September. But the appeals board found the employee was not to blame, rather it was a “systemic failure” that allowed Flowers to remain free.

Vicki Moak said it was emotional for her to be so close to Flowers. She prayed for strength Tuesday morning before the arraignment hearing.

“As I’ve done from the beginning since this happened, I told God, ‘I’ll never survive it without you and I need you.’ That’s something he needs to know,” she said. “I told him, ‘You’re going to have to be with me,’ and this morning, I just told him, ‘Your will be done.’ He knows more than I do and he knows the future and he holds it all in his hand. He’s going to take care of everything and I know that.”