SOUTHAVEN, MS Jan 26 2017
A string of violent armed robberies in Mississippi ended with a shootout that left two deputies injured and the suspect dead Wednesday night.
The shooting happened on Stateline Road near I-55 around 9:30 p.m. behind Heartland Church.
A DeSoto County patrol sergeant was shot in the foot and a K9 deputy was shot in an area of his chest that wasn't covered by his bullet proof vest. He has a collapsed lung and a broken rib and is in surgery, according to Sheriff Bill Rasco. Both deputies are expected to be OK.
Between them, the two deputies have spent 15 years with the sheriff's department.
"Tonight there were three armed robberies. Two in Horn Lake, one here in Southaven," District Attorney John Champion said. "There were officers filtering out in the area looking for the suspect's vehicle. Two sheriff's deputies saw the suspect's vehicle over here in the Kroger parking lot, two very brave deputies."
Champion said the deputies chased the suspect when he jumped out of his vehicle and started running away.
"The brave officers confronted the suspect," Champion said. "He opened fire on the officers and the officers were shot."
DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said he will not allow crimes like these to stand.
"What it means is DeSoto County is fixing to buckle down," he said. "If you come to DeSoto County and break a crime, we're going to get you. That's our statement, we're going to make sure you don't come back to DeSoto County. We're all family. We're all dealing with the same people. Just because there's a state line, that doesn't make any difference."
Sheriff Rasco said Horn Lake Police Department was investigating a robbery that happened at Home Depot. After that, the suspect went to Southaven and started robbing people near Kroger.
"I cannot recall when the last time a DeSoto County Sheriff's deputy was shot," Rasco said. "We're going to do everything we can to beef up our department and make sure we keep our people safe. We're going to take charge and not let that happen in our county,"
"They (deputies) were very, very brave confronting the suspect who committed three violent armed robberies," Champion said.
People in the area took to social media to describe what they saw and experienced throughout the evening.
"I pulled up probably around 9:30 p.m. with my wife and got out and I saw probably 20 cop cars," David Avanzi said. "I went in and said, 'Is it safe to pump gas?' and they said, 'Hey, did you hear the gunshots?' I said, 'No.'"
Avanzi described waiting at the gas station for a short time as law enforcement officers got a handle on the situation following the shooting.
"The police tried to make sure we weren't involved," Avanzi said. "Any entrances and exits to the gas station were pretty much blocked. We weren't going anywhere."
Champion said the shooting and armed robberies Wednesday night is an example of the dangers that exist.
"Nothing's safe anymore. I hate to say it that way," Champion said.
Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson asked everyone to remember the deputies and all of law enforcement as they tuck their children into bed.