Accused cop killer pleads guilty, gets life

Published 12:25 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The man charged with the shooting deaths of two Brookhaven police officers in 2018 pleaded guilty to first degree murder Wednesday morning.

Marquis Aaron Flowers, 28, was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder after the 2018 shootings of Brookhaven Police Department Cpl. Zach Moak and Officer James White. The charges were enhanced by possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

District Attorney Dee Bates had said he would pursue the death penalty at trial, which was scheduled to begin in Pike County next week, after picking a jury from candidates in Lafayette County beginning Monday, Nov. 8.

In Lincoln County Circuit Court Wednesday, Flowers pleaded to the two lesser charges of first degree murder, enhanced by possession of the weapon. Bates said the State would accept the pleas, recommending a sentence of life for each of the murder counts, to be served concurrently. Ten years were recommended for the weapon count. The life sentences were mandated by statute if the pleas were accepted.

Moak and White were killed at a residence on North Sixth Street in Brookhaven just before dawn on Sept. 29, 2018. Flowers was arrested at the home when law enforcement found him with gunshot wounds after the officers were killed in an apparent shootout while responding to a call of “shots fired” prior to 5 a.m. that day. BPD Chief Kenneth Collins said at the time that Moak had exchanged gunfire with a suspect while trying to pull an injured White to safety.

After Flowers entered his pleas, members of the officers’ families addressed the court in emotional impact statements, asking for the maximum sentences to be imposed. The brother of the defendant was granted a statement as well, asking for whatever leniency was in the court’s power to grant.

Flowers also made an emotion-filled statement, saying he asked God daily for forgiveness for what he had done and asked the families to forgive him, as well.

Special Judge Richard “Dickie” McKenzie accepted the pleas from the defendant and the sentencing recommendations of the State. The judge sentenced Flowers to two life sentences for the murder counts, 10 years for the weapon charge, and a fine of $10,000 plus cost of court. Flowers was committed back to custody of the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office until he could be transferred to custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections at the State Penitentiary at Parchman.

A written statement from the office of DA Bates, released around 1:30 p.m., stated in part:

“Prior to the officers’ arrival that night, Flowers had sustained a non-debilitating gunshot wound during the initial incident. He had an outstanding warrant for his arrest on felony charges from Adams County, which prosecutors contend was his reason for concealing himself from the officers in a nearby outbuilding. When officers White and Moak arrived on scene they noted blood drops and were attempting to locate the injured person to provide aid when Flowers shot and killed both officers. Officer Moak was able to return fire, striking Flowers multiple times, and call for assistance from other officers prior to succumbing to his injuries. Flowers was located and arrested by other Brookhaven Police officers who responded to the scene moments later … As a result of his pleas he was sentenced to mandatory life terms for each murder, and waived any right to appeal his sentences.”

“Hopefully, the conviction of the man responsible for these despicable crimes will bring some comfort to those who have suffered,” Bates said via the statement.

In response to the question of what is being done in regard to the shooting of Flowers prior to the arrival of Moak and White, Bates said information is needed to assist in that investigation.

“That is an open investigation that is still being conducted by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations,” Bates said. “Anyone in the Lincoln County area that has any information regarding that, please notify the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to please assist us in the prosecution of those individuals, whomever they are.”

MBI Director Lt. Col. Lee Morrison can be reached at 601-987-1573. Southern Regional Supervisor Maj. David Murtagh can be reached at 228-396-7400.