Headlines – 4/2/2004

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 2, 2004

Panolian Headlines: April 2, 2004

For complete stories, pick up the 4/02/04  issue of The Panolian

Como Man Dies in Carjacking
By Kate B. Dickson

Friends and family will join six sisters Saturday when they lay their only brother to rest in the Cistern Hill Baptist Church cemetery in Como.

Dexter Birge, 28, a 1995 graduate of North Panola High School, was shot dead Monday night during a carjacking in East Shelby County outside Memphis.  (See on Page 3).

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"You know crime is out there and you try to be aware but you just don’t expect it to happen," said Birge’s sister Shunnon Richardson.

Her brother, she said, "was a very hard worker. He started about 4:30 every morning and worked six or seven days a week."

The victim, along with his parents, Robert and Dorothy Birge, own B’s Quick Stop on Highway 51 in Como.

Birge was the nephew of Panola County Supervisor James Birge.

The victim had worked in the family stores since he was 15, doing "everything from cooking to running the cash register," his sister said.

No arrests had been made in the case as of Thursday morning, but Richardson said sheriff’s deputies "know who they are looking for."

Det. Sgt. Ray Sides told The Panolian Thursday that officers have identified "three suspects" and are looking for them.

"Hopefully, we’ll crack this open pretty soon," he said.

Birge’s GMC Denali sport utility vehicle was found behind a house in Fayette County, Tenn., after it was tracked using the OnStar system with which it was equipped, according to Steve Shular, public information officer for the sheriff’s office. OnStar uses satellite global positioning system technology.

Sides said the accuracy of OnStar took detectives "right to it … within 40 yards."

The SUV was partially disassembled and detectives also found another vehicle – a black Mercury Marquis – that was taken in a carjacking in southeast Memphis on Sunday. No one was hurt in that incident.

The shooting happened about 6:45 p.m. outside Dollar General Store at 7110 East Shelby Drive near Riverdale, Shular said.

Witnesses were quoted as saying three men approached Birge as he got into his gray SUV.

Investigators say Birge was shot several times. He then stumbled back into the store, collapsed near a cash register and died shortly after an ambulance arrived.

Sides said witnesses told detectives that Birge refused to turn his vehicle over to the men and "fought" to keep from doing so.

Detectives say two of the suspects ran from the scene and the other man drove away in Birge’s vehicle.

Family members learned of the tragedy from Birge’s girlfriend with whom he lived in Memphis, Richardson said.

"He had called her from the (Dollar General Store) and she didn’t answer because she was in the shower," his sister said.

When Birge’s girlfriend saw that he had called, she dialed his cell phone and someone at the store picked it up, answered and told her what had happened, Richardson said.

Remembering her brother as "loving," Richardson said Birge was "very close" to his family.

Birge was known for his wit and for his "easy-going" manner that made him a likeable person, she said.

When he wasn’t working or spending time with family, Richardson said Birge liked to go to car and motorcycle races.

"He didn’t race, but he loved to watch races." she said.

"He was such a loving brother," she said, "and we loved him and we loved spoiling him.

"He was younger than all but one of his sisters but he was the backbone of our family. Sometimes we felt like he was our big brother."

Locals Aiming at Range;
Asking City for Solution
by Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

A firing range used by local law enforcement agencies is a cause for concern with residents on Highway 6.

The Batesville Police Department’s range is used by a number of agencies for officers who need to qualify for firearms use.

Jarrell Mills who lives near the range and raises quarter horses, said the range opened about 10 years ago, but it was only used by BPD.

"At the time, there was just a pop here and there," he said. "You could notice it, but it wasn’t as bothersome as it is now with all of the agencies using the range.

"There have been times that 10 or more people have been on a firing line at a time," Mills said.

In addition to worrying about his horses, Mills said he is concerned for the small children living in the area.

"There are some children, all of them younger than 10 years-old living just up from the range," he said.

Russell Paulk said he, too, is concerned for the safety of the children in the area.

"Every time the guns start firing, the parents grab the kids and lock themselves in the house thinking that might help," he said.

Mills said neighbors have told him about times they have been sitting outside and can hear the bullets hitting the trees near them.

"At one time this was quiet, then all of a sudden the shooting started," he said. "And it just keeps getting worse."


Batesville Man
     Should Have Been a Cowboy

Bob Haltom or "Bad Bob" Forrest, as he is known in the ranks of the Mississippi River Rangers and the Single Action Shooting Society, showed off his "John Wayne gun" during a recent interview with The Panolian.
by Jason C. Mattox
Senior Staff Writer

One Panola County resident leads a double life- and wants everyone to know about it.

Bob Haltom might seem like your average everyday retired person who devotes his time to travel, the South Panola Foundation for Public Education and the Batesville Kiwanis Club, but some weekends, he becomes something else.

On the fourth Saturday of every month, he travels to Byhalia and back in time, prior to 1900 to be exact, where he becomes "Bad Bob" Forrest- nephew of Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Haltom said he takes on the character while he participates in shooting matches held by the Mississippi River Rangers. The Rangers are a group of shooting enthusiasts who use weapons and wear clothing that dates back to the year 1900 or before.

"We have over 100 members and we all have our own characters and back-story," he said. "I am the nephew of Nathan Bedford Forrest who went to the Civil war at 16.

EMTs Need Help
    with Calls in City
By Kate B. Dickson

A change in educational requirements has depleted the EMT pool for ambulance services to draw from.

Gracie Grant-Gulledge of Tri-Lakes Medical Center said the stricter educational requirements for EMTs is one of the reasons there is a shortage of EMTs to handle all of the medical calls in Panola County.

"When they changed the requirement for EMTs, the number of graduates has been cut in half," she said.

Another reason Gulledge says the county is having trouble retaining its EMTs is better money being offered from the Memphis area.

"There are a lot of EMTs that have left this area for Memphis and DeSoto County," she said.

"We are a lot luckier than Oxford," Gulledge said. "At this time we only have one full-time position open. Oxford has a lot of spots open at their ambulance service.

"Keep in mind that every hospital is looking to hire more EMTs to staff their ambulance service, the people just aren’t there," she said.

Recently, Gulledge requested firefighters from the City of Batesville be allowed to respond to all medical calls in its area, a request expected to be ruled on by the Batesville Board of Aldermen soon.

"The firemen would simply help provide a more prompt response time to medical calls," she said.

The average response time for EMTs from Tri-Lakes is three minutes, she said.

"It just happens that sometimes you have one rig out transporting a patient to Oxford or Memphis and you only have one crew available," she said. "And a lot of times, there are multiple trauma calls.

"You can’t leave a patient and take another unless someone stays at the scene," she said. "With the firemen responding, they could stay at the scene with patients."

Gulledge said the firemen would be a great asset because they have CPR certification.
"Brain damage can start at four minutes if CPR is not administered," she said.

"The fire departments can really help us out with a lot of things," she said. "I am hopeful they will be able to start assisting us soon."