Officer Thanked

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 12, 2010

Crenshaw Mayor Oscar Barlow reads a letter from Joyce Betts that publicly thanked police officer Sean Shelton for saving her life Sunday night at her home on Pollan Road. Shelton was shot twice by drifter Lawrence D. Richardson. The Panolian photo by Billy Davis

‘It appeared… he had torture in mind’

Authorities disclose more details of shooting

By Billy Davis

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A Virginia man who was shot and killed February 7 by a Crenshaw police officer was preparing to torture and kill his ex-girlfriend in her home, authorities said Wednesday.

District Attorney John Champion, speaking at a press conference, called officer Sean Shelton’s shooting of Lawrence D. Richardson a “justifiable shooting.”

Champion said Shelton shot Richardson “10 to 12 times” after Richardson opened fire with a .22 caliber pistol at a home on Pollan Road.

The officer was hit in the face and in the abdomen, and is recovering at The MED in Memphis.

Authorities called the press conference to announce their findings of the shooting investigation performed by the Miss. Bureau of Investigations and the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities described Richardson as a “drifter,” originally from Fairfax, Virginia. He was said to have a 28-page criminal history that includes abduction, burglary and robbery.

The victim’s name, Joyce Betts, was made public Wednesday when Mayor Oscar Barlow read aloud a letter of thanks from Betts.

Betts, who is Richardon’s ex-girlfriend, had called Shelton to her home when she arrived home and found the lights were not working.

Champion said Wednesday that Betts, in the days leading up to the Sunday night shooting, had received threatening text messages from Richardson.

Authorities have already said Shelton saved Betts’ life, but Champion added more detailed – and chilling – facts. Richardson had secured rope and plastic ties to a coffee table, readying it to hold down his victim, the district attorney said.

“He intended to probably kill her,” Champion said of Richardson. “And it appeared… he had torture in mind.”

A butcher knife, .22 caliber rifle and a tarpaulin were also found on and around the coffee table, according to Champion.

Memphis media have referred to Richardson’s elaborate preparations as a “torture table.”

Authorities told The Panolian that crime scene evidence appeared neat and organized, indicating that Richardson had spent some time preparing for Betts to arrive home. But Shelton entered the home instead, firing back at Richardson after he was wounded.

“It takes a great big heart to do what (Shelton) did – to enter a dark house like that,” Sheriff Otis Griffin said Wednesday. “To me that’s a superhero.”

Authorities have said Shelton was wearing a bullet-proof vest but Champion, asked Wednesday about a vest, said that matter is “under investigation.”

Barlow said a medical fund has been established at First Security Bank branches for Shelton.

The full-time police officer did not have medical insurance through the town but does qualify for Workman’s Compensation, Barlow said.