FAYETTE, Ala. (AP) — A suspect being booked at a small-town police station grabbed an officer’s gun and opened fire early yesterday, killing two officers and a dispatcher before fleeing in a police car, authorities said.
The dark blue Crown Victoria police cruiser was spotted about 3 hours later, just across the state line in Mississippi, and the driver was arrested, said Lowndes County, Miss., Sheriff’s Deputy Tony Mulligan.
Mississippi authorities in jail records identified the driver as Devan Darnel Moore, 18, of Jasper, a town about 30 miles northeast of Fayette.
Mr. Moore’s father, Kenneth Moore, told the Associated Press yesterday that his son had a troubled history but that he thought the young man had turned things around when he graduated from high school two weeks ago and announced he would join the Air Force.
“The people here that I’ve been talking to, I told he needs help,” Mr. Moore told the AP after his son’s arrest.
The two Fayette police officers and dispatcher were fatally shot inside the one-story, brick police station, near the town’s City Hall, about 5:30 a.m., said coroner Richard Nelson. A firefighter who heard the shots from the fire station next door found the bodies and alerted authorities. Mr. Moore was arrested at 9 a.m. about 12 miles west of the Alabama border.
At the time of the shooting, the suspect was being booked in connection with a stolen vehicle, said Fayette City Council member David Brand.
Mayor Ray Nelson said the suspect had been handcuffed after being stopped about 3 a.m. but that the handcuffs could have been removed during fingerprinting.
“There was a struggle,” he said, and an officer’s weapon was taken by the suspect. Mr. Nelson said the department had 14 officers before the shooting.
“This is a tragedy for our community,” he said. The Alabama House of Representatives, in session yesterday, held a moment of silence for the victims.
Fayette City Council member Cedric Wilson identified the dead as Cpl. James Crump, Officer Arnold Strickland and dispatcher Ace Mealer. He said he was familiar with the suspect but didn’t know what could have motivated the shooting.
“That kind of boggles all of us. What would make him do such a thing?” Mr. Wilson said.
He said the dead officers and dispatcher were alone in the police station at the time and that a firefighter found the bodies and called for help.
Mr. Moore’s father told the AP that his son was a troubled young man and that the boy’s mother had told him the teen was involved in selling drugs.
“I kept telling people about it, going to the church and telling people he was a troubled child, but people didn’t pay me no mind,” he said. “I raised him from a baby, but people don’t listen.”
Kenneth Moore said he sent his son to live with the young man’s mother two years ago because he couldn’t control him. He said his son would often steal his car and that last year his mother found a gun in the house belonging to him.
“I’m a discipline parent, and everybody around town knows I’m a good parent,” Mr. Moore said. “One parent can’t do it all by himself.”
Doris Brasher, who owns a grocery store on Highway 96, said many in the close-knit town knew the three men who were killed.