| Wal-Mart shooting was ‘drug deal gone bad’
| BPD still seeking shooter; recovers drugs, revolver
| Law enforcement officers from Batesville and Panola County converged en masse upon the Batesville Wal-Mart last Friday evening when a drug deal evidently went sour. Shots were fired in the parking lot leaving one injured. A partial trail of blood went through the store toward the layaway area and rest rooms when two suspects fled through the store, leaving through the auto service area. The store never closed.
| By Jason C. Mattox
Three Grenada men are in custody at the David M. Bryan Justice Complex, and one is still at large, after a shooting Friday night in the parking lot at Wal-Mart in Batesville.
Those arrested include the victim of the shooting, Eramus Spears, 21, who was grazed by gunfire.
Det. George Williford of the Batesville Police Department said the department has fingered a suspected shooter and is looking for that person.
"We are presently looking for a fourth suspect in regards to this incident, and we have not ruled out the possibility of a fifth," he said.
DeMarquest Bledsoe, 24, Alton Kee, 25, and Spears, have all been charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, transfer or distribute.
The incident occurred at 6:55 p.m., Williford said.
"The evidence we have points to this being a drug transaction gone bad," he said.
According to Williford, a large amount of marijuana and a .38 caliber handgun were recovered. The gun recovered was not used in the shooting.
"The person shot was one of the suspects we have in custody," he said. "He sustained a graze to his left knee and his right arm."
Police Chief Gerald Legge said the number of shots fired in the incident has not been determined.
Dripping blood through the store, the shooting victim and another suspect ran into Wal-Mart as the third suspect remained in the vehicle.
Video from the store’s surveillance cameras in the parking lot showed the suspects entering the store, but little more, Chief Gerald Legge said.
"They ran into the store, to the layaway area bathrooms and exited through the Tire Lube Express," Williford said.
The victim of the shooting was transported by private vehicle to Tri-Lakes Medical Center where he was treated and released Saturday morning. At the time of the release, he was taken into custody by the police.
The other suspects were arrested at Tri-Lakes Friday night, Legge said.
As for rumors of another shooting victim, Williford said those are false.
"There were no bystanders injured in this incident," he said. "There was one car that received some damage, and it belonged to a store associate."
"We were blessed that no innocent people were injured, and we intend to prosecute the people responsible to the fullest extent of the law," Legge added.
Local management with Wal-Mart referred The Panolian to its Media Relations Team in Bentonville, Ark. Calls to that department were not returned.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Williford at 563-5653. The case remains under investigation.
| Sardis robbery suspect nabbed in house
| By Jason C. Mattox
A suspect being held at the David M. Bryan Justice complex has been charged with breaking and entering after being apprehended in a house on Pearl Street in Sardis during the late evening hours of Tuesday, June 27. Charges are also pending on two home invasions that occurred June 20.
Gregory McAllister, 33, was taken into custody by Sardis Police officer Brooke Manigold.
"Officer Manigold caught the suspect in the house and worked quickly to take him into custody," Sardis Police Chief Mike Davis said.
The chief said the suspect has not admitted to the pair of home invasions on Juanita Street on June 20, but remains fairly certain McAllister is one of the men involved.
"I can say this," Davis said. "After we took him into custody, the burglaries stopped."
The home invasions happened about 100 yards apart on Juanita Street during the evening hours of Tuesday, June 20. Both houses were occupied at the time of the break-ins.
"Neither of the residents victimized was injured during the break-ins," he said. "We did initially call for an ambulance, but there were no injuries."
The ambulance was called for a man who fell as the crime was in progress, according to the chief.
"The robbers startled him when they pushed in a door, causing him to fall," Davis said.
This was the second time in the past month one of the homes on Juanita Street was victimized. During the first incident, no one was home.
"As always, people need to take precautions wherever they live," Davis said. "Keeping doors locked and having motion detector lights are a good idea when it comes to deterring crime."
In other police business, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of James "Jimmy" Bobo for his alleged involvement in a knife-point robbery on Dewberry Street Friday night.
| SP board approves budget
| By Rupert Howell
Trustees of the South Panola District gave final approval for the 2006-2007 budget during a meeting held Friday, June 30.
The budget, which includes a four percent increase and totals $36,345,072.68, is partially funded by $6,379,863 derived from local sources.
Last Friday’s meeting followed a series of public hearings and legal advertisements allowing citizens a venue to make comments and ask questions concerning the increase and the proposed budget’s expenditures. No one attended.
Asked Friday if trustees had heard comments or questions from citizens concerning the proposed budget and increase, all present answered "no" except for Board President Lygunnah Bean.
Bean explained that constituents who see the actual numbers in the budget understand why an increase may be necessary.
Bean also serves as Panola County’s road manager working for the county and said that his "bosses," Panola County Board of Supervisors, had questioned him about the proposed budget and increases. Bean also mentioned that South Panola School District is the largest employer in the county and the increase compared to the total budget is actually very small.
School officials will present the adopted budget to Panola supervisors for funding prior to August 15.
Members present at Friday’s meeting were trustees Bean, Dr. Carlock Broome, Sara Dell Gray and Dr. Joe Gardner. Others present were Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer and board attorney Colmon Mitchell.
Trustees meet monthly on the third Tuesday at
7 p.m. at the Parent Center behind Batesville Intermediate School at Atwell and College Streets.
| Copper thieves sought
| By Billy Davis
The copper materials that were yanked from the former Dana plant in Crenshaw brought in $4,000 to the thieves who gutted the facility, county supervisors learned Monday.
Panola County sheriff’s investigator Mark Whitten updated supervisors about an investigation of the theft, disclosing the identity of the chief suspect in the case.
Panola County Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright asked that the suspect’s name not be made public since the suspected thief is still on the run.
"He has left the state and possibly is in New York," Whitten said of the chief suspect.
At least two more people were likely involved in the theft, the investigator told supervisors.
The plundering took place May 31 and also during two more dates in June, earning the thieves $4,000 after three trips to a Memphis scrap yard.
Supervisors are uniquely concerned with the damage to the county-owned plant since the facility is part of an ongoing county deal to lure an industry, Rolando Foods, to the site.
An insurance estimate of the damage is forthcoming, supervisors said.
Regarding Rolando locating to the site, District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant said the food company is ready to begin renovating the facility.
A federal agency has a lien on the facility that totals $75,803, however, which must be paid before the building can be released to Rolando.
"Hopefully some of the insurance money will cover some of that cost," Avant said.
| County will keep insurance providers
| By Billy Davis
Panola County supervisors voted Monday to continue with Humana for the county’s health insurance coverage, citing new lower rates for dependents as a main draw.
Panola County Administrator David Chandler provided figures from Humana and two Aetna plans, requesting a decision from supervisors for budgeting purposes.
The fiscal year begins October 1 for Panola County government.
According to a comparison chart provided by Chandler, Humana’s monthly premium will climb $28.31 per county employee, from the current monthly premium of $386.25 to $414.56.
Rates for employees’ family members will drop, however, from $193.01 to $150.91 per month for a spouse and $115.88 to $73.67 per month for a child.
A family rate plan shows a drop of $42.22 from last year.
Panola County taxpayers foot the bill for monthly premiums for the supervisors and other county employees, but employees pay for family members’ coverage out of pocket.
Despite some grumbling about service, supervisors voted to keep the current carrier for gap coverage since the rates have not increased.
The county pays for monthly gap insurance that covers employees’ hospital deductible at a cost of $14,000 monthly, or about $168,000 a year.
"There’s no satisfaction with gap (coverage) at my household," complained District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins.
"It has a lot of holes," added Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock.
Citing the expense of the gap insurance, Chandler suggested that supervisors eventually look at a cost-share plan in the future.
District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant suggested continuing with Humana despite his own complaints about service.
"We’ve got to tell the employees that it works in the hospital but not in clinics," Avant said, suggesting that insurance billing errors are more frequent at clinics than hospitals.
Supervisors also voted to continue with Guardian for dental coverage and EyeMed for vision coverage. The dental insurance will remain $21.97 per month for employees while EyeMed will increase about a quarter per month to $6.74 for employees.
Supervisors began offering vision insurance last year at the suggestion of Pitcock.
| In other county business:
||Supervisors learned the specifics of their pending contract with the City of Batesville for garbage service for the city.
Board attorney Bill McKenzie spelled out the details, namely a three-year contract with the city’s right to reject or renew for three more years if it wishes.
"There is no provision for an increase," McKenzie noted to the board.
Regarding an increase in cost, County Administrator David Chandler said the landfill used by the county is also locked into a six-year deal.
"So there’s no need to stipulate anything if our costs go up?" asked Supervisor Bubba Waldrup.
"No, because they won’t go up," Chandler replied.
The contract also allows free garbage service at various city-owned departments, city parks, and the use of one free can at churches inside the city limits.
||McKenzie was instructed by supervisors to write District Attorney John Champion about criminal justice grant money that is not coming to the county.
"This has been going on since July of last year," said Pitcock.
The grant totals $53,000 a year, the chancery clerk said.
"We’re still paying this grant writer but not getting anything," Pitcock told the board.
||Hoping to clear up confusion about pay for election day poll workers, Chandler cited a current state law that sets the pay at $50 for a day of work.
The pay includes a maximum of $25 from the county, $25 from the state, $20 for attending training, and $10 for handling ballot boxes, the county administrator also said.
"It was $85 when I came into office," said Pitcock, citing the obvious change as the likely reason for confusion.
||Supervisors learned that Panola County will receive $113,325 in state fire rebate insurance funds.
The announcement was made via a letter addressed to Avant from Commissioner of Insurance George Dale, who also serves as state fire marshal.
Supervisors did not discuss how to disburse the funds.
||County road manager Lygunnah Bean announced that the road department will begin asphalt work on Blackjack Road in coming days. An overlay of Goodhope Road will follow that work, he said.
The road department has resurfaced a portion of Highway 310, Curtis Road and Dummyline Road in recent months.