Chief: Rookie officer saves the day in Mississippi kidnapping case

Published 3:42 pm Sunday, April 30, 2023

Earlier this week, Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill was quick to praise officers who helped spot and capture two suspects wanted for kidnapping a one-year-old child out of Lincoln County in Mississippi.

What Merrill didn’t mention in his social media post praising the officers was that the one who quickly spotted the car and called for backup had only been a patrol officer in Vidalia for four-months.

That officer was Carson Cupit, a 2020 graduate of Delta Charter School and a lifelong Vidalia resident.

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On Tuesday night, Vidalia Police Department received a BOLO (be on the lookout) alert for a silver Subaru with a Michigan license plate, which was said to be occupied by a Black male accompanied by a one-year-old child.

The call came out at approximately 9:40 p.m.

Moments later, Cupit stopped the vehicle.

Hashem Ben-Yisrayl, 23, of Hazelhurst, and Makayla Hanselman, 18, of Fort Polk, were taken into custody. They now face felony kidnapping charges in Lincoln County.

The child is safe and reunited with his family, Merrill said.

Cupit described how it happened. It was a matter of being diligent while being in the right place at the right time.

“I was actually walking through the ballpark when the BOLO came out,” he said. “I went to my unit, got in and pulled out on the highway and was riding toward the bridge when I saw the car at Popeye’s. Right away, I got turned around, ran it down and stopped them.”

Others who aided in the arrest were Lt. Ronnie Coleman, Sgt. Spencer McAllister, and Inv. Sgt. Del’Marcus Johnson.

Merrill thanked all of them by name on social media, “for their prompt and decisive actions in identifying and stopping the vehicle as it was traveling through Vidalia and getting the child to safety.”

“We got (Hashem Ben-Yisrayl) out of the car first and the female had the kid,” Cupit said. “When we got her out, she set the kid down. … I ran up and grabbed the kid while my sergeant put her in handcuffs.”

Cupit had been working at Vidalia Police Department since 2021, mostly working at baseball and football games and presenting himself in uniform at special events like the annual “Back the Blue Barbeque” before he started in the patrol division.

“He comes from a long line of first responders,” Merrill said.

Cupit’s father and older brother are both officers before him.

Before putting on the uniform, Cupit owned River’s Edge Construction company. He enjoys building cars and trucks, riding motorcycles and playing golf.

“I enjoy the adrenaline and love people,” he said of being a police officer. “I love everything about it or I wouldn’t be here.”

Cupit said being an officer has taught him how to read people, assess and deescalate situations and make quick decisions.

“Even when you’re not in uniform, you’re still an officer at all times. That’s the sworn oath,” Cupit said. “It’s not the uniform people remember. It’s your face, your voice and your body language. People could possibly hurt you. … You have to keep your head on a swivel.”