Man gets half-century prison sentence for shooting deputies

Published 9:12 am Monday, March 4, 2019

A Mississippi man has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for shooting and wounding two deputies who were conducting a welfare check.

The Commercial Dispatch reports 35-year-old Kenneth Coscia was sentenced Friday in the 2014 shooting that wounded Lowndes County Sheriff’s Lt. Clint Sims and Lt. Larry Swearingen. Coscia pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer as part of a plea deal that dropped other charges.

The wounded deputies told the court they were at Coscia’s home for several hours before the shooting. They said Coscia was alone in the New Hope house, and his wife gave officers a key to enter the residence. Swearingen said Sims put the key in the lock and several gunshots were fired through the door, striking the deputies.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Coscia told the court he had been sleeping and awoke to armed deputies outside his home.

“I thought they were there to hurt me,” Coscia said.

Coscia’s father, Marion, testified that he had been worried about his son’s mental health for several weeks before the shooting, but his son was reluctant to get mental help. He said Coscia had been stocking up on food as if preparing for the end of the world and would talk about the Book of Revelations and Illuminati. He says his son kept worrying about people taking away his guns.

Since his arrest, Coscia has spent two stints at the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield that performs competency evaluations. He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which can cause hallucinations and delusions, but was ruled competent to face trial when on medications.

Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Clemons says it’s frustrating that state law doesn’t allow defendants found competent for trial to be sentenced to mental health facilities. “I really do think he is the poster child for why we need long-term mental health facilities for the criminally mentally ill,” Clemons said.

However, Clemons says it was obvious that Coscia did not believe he was mentally ill, making it possible he would have gone off his medications if released.
Coscia’s attorney, Rob Roberson, declined the newspaper’s request for comment.