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Update on local violent crimes
The Perry County Sheriff’s Office has made six arrests connected to the recent string of violent crimes in the area. Charges for the six arrested include possession of a stolen firearm, hindering prosecution and gang activity. These crimes have put several communities in three counties on edge during the Christmas holidays, and the death of a young boy in the town of Waynesboro left many in mourning in what was supposed to be a time of celebration. Those arrested are as follows:
Billy Wayne Berry, 26, b/m charged with Hindering Prosecution, Possession of a Stolen Firearm, and Gang Activity: Ralphel Jarez Carter, 29, b/m charged with Hindering Prosecution and Gang Activity: Jefferey Brown, 23, b/m charged with Hindering Prosecution, Gang Activity and Possession of a Stolen Firearm: Joshua Steele, 25, b/m charged with Hindering Prosecution and Gang Activity: Jordan Tate Martin, 26, b/m charged with Hindering Prosecution and Gang Activity Participation: Joshua David Griffin, 29, b/m charged with Hindering Prosecution and Gang Activity.
If you see any suspicious activity in your community, contact your local authorities or report anonymous tips to Crimestoppers at 1(888)8CRIMES (823-4637).
Shootings in Waynesboro, McLain and Beaumont; stabbings inside SMCI suspected to be caused by quarrel between rival gangs
By RUSSELL TURNER
Shootings in Waynesboro, McLain and Beaumont over the past week and a half have left one person dead and multiple others wounded. Meanwhile, one person is dead and multiple others reportedly injured after inmate-on-inmate violence erupted inside South Mississippi Correctional Institution (SMCI) on Sunday.
Officials have not officially tied the incidents together, but officers from multiple agencies have told the Herald they do appear to be gang-related and are likely connected. None have said what they believe has led to the violence.
People in Waynesboro were shocked and horrified by a drive-by shooting at an apartment complex there on Dec. 20. Investigators say eye-witness reports indicate a vehicle drove up to Waynesboro Apartments, also known as the ‘High Rise’, around 8 p.m. and opened fire. Six people standing outside the apartment complex were struck by one of at least 15 rounds reportedly fired from the vehicle. A seventh victim, 13-year-old Zachary Benard was also hit by a bullet while inside one of the apartments. Benard, who police called “an innocent victim”, later died of his wounds.
On Christmas Eve, a shooting in the McLain community sent two people to the hospital, after an exchange of gunfire in the parking lot of the McLain Express. McLain Police Chief Brent Purcell responded to a call at the convenience store shortly after 8 p.m. Purcell called the incident an ambush-style shooting that involved multiple weapons and dozens of rounds being fired. Purcell said the two gunshot victims were sitting in a parked car on the side of the convenience store when multiple assailants attacked from a wooded area nearby.
“Several weapons were used in the shooting,” Purcell said. “We recovered shell casings for three different weapons from the shooters.”
The two victims in the car also drew weapons and returned fire, Purcell said. Jason Bolton and Demarcus Moody were identified as the two injured and taken to Forrest General Hospital. Moody was reportedly taken by personal vehicle and later released, and Bolton was taken by ambulance with non-life-threatening injuries. Ages and addresses of the victims were not available at press time.
The next morning, just up Hwy. 98 from McLain, shots were fired at an apartment complex in Beaumont. Perry County Sheriff Mitch Nobles said Beaumont police received a call around 3 a.m. about guns being fired at the Oakwood Apartments on 2nd Street. No injuries were reported, but Nobles said several shell casings were recovered from the scene.
Then, early Sunday morning, yet another shooting occurred outside McLain, sending two unidentified victims to the hospital with gunshot wounds. That shooting, which occurred around 3 a.m. at a residence across Hwy. 98 from the Big K convenience store, also reportedly involved multiple shooters and weapons.
No arrests had been reported in shootings as of Monday afternoon.
On Monday, news broke that Terrandance Dobbins, 40, a state inmate serving time for murder (Adams County) and aggravated assault (Sunflower County) had been killed at SMCI. Officials with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) confirmed Dobbins’ death and said two other inmates sustained non-life threatening injuries “following a major disturbance” at the prison. However, very little other information was released from prison officials.
An email sent from an individual claiming to be an inmate at SMCI to an investigative journalist who has reported extensively about the prison system said the killing was part of a gang battle at the facility.
The email specifically identified the building and area in which the incident occurred and named the Vice Lord and Gangsta Disciple gangs as being involved. One gang member was killed, one was taken from the prison by ambulance and several other inmates were stabbed or beaten, the email claimed.
When reached for comment, MDOC officials declined to confirm or contradict the claims contained in the email.
The email also stated that SMCI had been placed on lockdown, which was confirmed by MDOC officials.
“Movement is restricted statewide in the prison system following a major disturbance Sunday at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution, where an inmate was killed and two others suffered non-life threatening injuries,” MDOC spokesperson Grace Fisher told the Herald via email. “Conditions at SMCI are under control as the prison remains on lockdown and an investigation continues.”
“In the interest of safety for the public, staff and inmates, the lockdown was extended to the other two state prisons, the three private prisons, and the 15 regional jails and will remain in effect pending the investigation.”