Mississippi jail escapee believed dead after armed standoff

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023

CONWAY, Miss. (AP) — A man who escaped from a Mississippi jail and is a suspect in a Monday night killing is believed to have died after barricading himself in a home and setting it on fire during an armed standoff with deputies, a police official said Wednesday.

Plumes of smoke emanated from the charred remains of the home in Conway, Mississippi, on Wednesday. Investigators believe 22-year-old Dylan Arrington perished inside the home, setting it ablaze after shooting a deputy in the leg, Leake County Sheriff Randy Atkinson told The Associated Press.

“He inflicted that kind of terror after escaping from jail, killing people and shooting law enforcement. But that guy won’t be killing anyone else,” Atkinson said.

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Authorities have been pursuing Arrington and three other inmates who broke out over the weekend from a Mississippi jail that was under federal scrutiny. Arrington is suspected of killing a man and stealing his pickup truck after the escape.

Atkinson said a medical examiner had yet to identify the body investigators recovered from the home in Conway, but they have “reason to believe” the body is Arrington’s because the homeowner recognized him from news reports.

The homeowner said he saw someone matching Arrington’s description hiding inside a trailer behind his house on Tuesday evening. He notified the sheriff’s office and fled with his family. Investigators searched the property, but there was no trace of Arrington. They continued the search through the night with drones and a helicopter.

Around 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Atkinson and one other deputy returned to the property with the homeowner. After a short meeting, the homeowner discovered someone inside. He sprinted outside and alerted the deputies, who were standing in the driveway. The person inside then exchanged gunfire with the deputies through a window, striking one of them in the leg, Atkinson said.

Within a two-hour period, the house was set ablaze from within, he said. Investigators waited until the fire was out before they approached the burnt home and found a body.

The injured deputy was transported to a hospital where he was stabilized.

Multiple law enforcement agencies continued searching parts of the state, after the Leake County Sheriff’s Office told residents to “please keep your doors locked and have no keys or weapons in your vehicles.”

The U.S. Marshals Service and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are among the agencies assisting in the search.

Police said Anthony Watts, a 61-year-old church pastor, was shot and killed Monday night around 7 p.m. on Interstate 55 in Jackson after he pulled over to help a man who had wrecked a motorcycle. That man shot Watts several times and then stole his Red Dodge Ram, police said. Watts died at the scene.

The suspect in that shooting fit the description of Arrington, said Jackson Police Chief James E. Davis.

Casey Grayson, Corey Harrison and Jerry Raynes are the other three prisoners who escaped Saturday night from the Raymond Detention Center, a facility near Jackson, through breaches in a cell and the roof. Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said the men might have camped out on the roof before fleeing the facility and going their separate ways.

In a statement posted to social media Wednesday, Jones said Raynes was spotted on surveillance footage at a Spring Valley, Texas service station on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Investigators believe he fled to Texas after stealing a Hinds County Public Works vehicle, which was later recovered in Spring Valley, a Houston suburb. It is unknown whether Raynes traveled to Texas alone.

The four were in custody for various felony charges, most involving theft. Arrington had charges of auto theft and illegal possession of a firearm, WAPT-TV reported.

Watts’ stolen Red Dodge Ram, which has tan trim and Cowboys stickers on the front and the back, was last seen heading south on I-55 in Terry, Mississippi, police said.

Investigators also believe a stolen Chevy Silverado is connected to the escape. Other than reports of Arrington’s possible death, none of the other men had been located as of Wednesday morning.

In July, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ordered a rare takeover of the jail after he said deficiencies in supervision and staffing led to “a stunning array of assaults, as well as deaths.”

But before the appointed receiver was scheduled to assume control over the jail on Jan. 1, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the lower court’s order until it ruled on the county’s motion for reconsideration.