Mississippi city beefing up security after shots fired at park; police report several incidents possibly related to recent murder

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Shots fired by unknown perpetrators at Trussell Park last week have spurred the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen to request additional security at all city parks.

In response, Chief of Police Kerry Pittman this week said patrolmen are concentrating on the public spaces identified by the board and will step up safety checkpoints/police roadblocks at high traffic areas in the city.

No arrests were made following the Trussell Park incident, and no injuries were reported. Investigation revealed that young people shooting a firearm into the air were probably the culprits. No one was shot at or threatened with a weapon.

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The 911 call reporting the shots was placed about 10 minutes before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15. A responding police unit saw one of the vehicles described by witnesses and captured on video by the BPD camera mounted on a pole on Hwy. 35N in front of the park.

“Officers stopped that vehicle and searched the car but found no weapons or anything illegal. The occupants told officers they also heard shots but didn’t see anyone with a gun,” Pittman said. “Based on that we made no arrests, but this remains open, and we are still investigating.”

Trussell Park, the largest of the city’s parks with tennis courts, three softball fields, a playground, and a popular walking track, is used at all hours of the day by families and few police calls come from the area. It is adjacent to parts of the Keating Grove subdivision.

Mayor Hal Ferrell called a special meeting of the board three days later. The board was joined by Sheriff Shane Phelps, Emergency Operations Director Daniel Cole, and a representative from the MS Homeland Security department.

In a release sent to the newspaper late Monday, Ferrell said the group discussed “these issues and possible solutions, rather than reactive strategy after another event. We cannot solve all problems, but proposals were made with some actions being implemented at this time.”

Patton Lane Park, J.P. Hudson Park, and Batesville Mounds will also see an increase in security. Aldermen said after the meeting they intend to approve payroll additions to keep a police presence at all parks.

A review of recent assaults, especially those involving gunfire, inside the city limits indicate that much of the activity stems from last month’s murder of Marcus Wheatley in a shooting that happened in the county and outside Batesville proper.

Since then, at least two people have been hit in a targeted shooting in the city limits, the latest a young woman on Vance St. Batesville Police arrested two men – James Earl Armstead of Batesville and Marico La’drekas Fondren of Sardis and charged them with two counts of aggravated assault.

“Our officers are watching our problem areas close, and we will not tolerate any illegal guns or shooting,” Pittman said.

-The Panolian