Two men charged with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with shooting of Mississippi man found dead on sidewalk

Published 6:35 am Friday, January 28, 2022

Two men have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 13 shooting death of a Mississippi man found lying dead on a neighborhood sidewalk.

Barney Lee Hawkins Jr., 26, and Darius Benard, 29, were both arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The arrests were made in connection with the Jan. 13 shooting death of Antonio Foster, 35.

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Foster was found lying dead in the 500 block of Oak Street near North Union Street at approximately 9:45 p.m. Jan. 13. A second gunshot victim, Wayne Hammett, 32, was transported to Merit Health Natchez and later to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Following a tip in the case, the police department’s new Violent Immediate Police Emergency Response (V.I.P.E.R.) Unit and SWAT team responded to 314 A Dumas Drive in the Maryland Heights Subdivision and arrested Hawkins shortly after Benard had been brought in to the department for questioning, Natchez Police Chief Joseph Daughtry said.

More charges and arrests may be coming pending the outcome of further investigation, he said.

The two arrests were made within hours of police being called to another shooting Thursday night on East Oak Street near Minor Street before 6 p.m.

Two 15-year-olds were injured and being treated at Merit Health Natchez, both in stable condition. The circumstances of the shooting and whether the incidents are connected is unclear as police are still investigating it, Daughtry said.

“We’re not sure yet (whether its connected) but it is possible,” he said. “We haven’t ruled anything in or out at this point but we’re doing the best we can to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and that takes time. We have to make sure that we cross all of our t’s and dot all of our i’s.”

Daughtry he is thankful for the community support that the department has been getting through tips.