Wright shooting – gang

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2012

Court hearing confirms shooting stemmed from feuding gangs

By Billy Davis and Emily Williams
Two rival street gangs brought guns to a fight January 16 in Batesville that left one of their members, Jeremy Wright, shot on Vance Street, a police detective testified this week.

BPD Detective Paul Shivers was testifying Tuesday at a preliminary hearing for Sharika Harris, 20, charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the shooting death of Wright.  

A second female, Latasha Taylor, 20, appeared in the same courtroom the following day to answer the same conspiracy charge.

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Taylor’s case was continued until she can attain an attorney and she remains in jail in Lafayette County on a $350,000 bond.  

Shivers testified that Taylor and Harris lived together at the Lester Street apartments — and alleged that their presence at the apartment complex set the stage for the shooting three weeks ago.  

Wright was shot once with a high-powered rifle during a dispute at the apartments between the Mafia Vice Lords and the Gangster Disciples, Shivers said at the hearing in Batesville city court.

The detective was called as a witness for Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale, who was presenting the state’s case against Harris before Judge Bill McKenzie.

McKenzie found probable cause that Harris’ case should be presented to a Panola County grand jury.

The detective’s six-minute testimony was the first time authorities have publicly said with any certainty that they believe Wright’s shooting was gang-related. It was also the first time law enforcement has recounted how and why they believe Wright was shot.

After the hearing, Shivers told a reporter that police were told the confrontation at the apartments stemmed from a fight between gang members that began weeks earlier at a nightclub.

An investigation by the Batesville Police Department and the Panola County Sheriff’s Department led to the arrest of four men for Wright’s murder: Marcus Tyrone Wheatley, 28; Jayson D. Dishmon, 28; Michael D. Fondren, 22; Marico L. Fondren, 17. Their bond was set at $1 million each at a January 25 court hearing.

Authorities interviewed dozens after the shooting and tracked multiple anonymous tips.

Shivers testified Tuesday that both Harris and Taylor were considered witnesses at first, until the alleged murderers said the two females were also involved.   

Harris, dressed in an orange Lafayette County jail uniform, was present at the hearing with defense attorney Ottowa Carter Jr., of Clinton.

Shivers testified that a gunfight between the two gangs — which eventually led to Wright’s shooting — began when Harris, an alleged member of the Vice Lords, noticed alleged Gangster Disciple Roderick Scurlock at the apartments in west Batesville.

“There were six total guns,” Shivers said, “three on each side.”

It was not clear from court testimony if Wright showed up at the apartments with Scurlock, though Shivers told a reporter after the hearing that Wright was affiliated with the Gangster Disciples. It was also not clear from court testimony if Wright was armed when he was shot.

Shivers told the court that Wright was struck once, in the back of the head, with a .223 caliber round.

A .223 round is found in AR-15s and other military and miltary-style firearms.

Police who responded to the shooting found Wright lying in a yard at 132 Vance Street, approximately 80 yards from the apartments.

Asked by Hale about Harris’s alleged involvement before the shooting, Shivers said Harris handed off a hooded jacket and gloves to a fellow gang member before the shooting began.

Citing an eyewitness, the detective also said Harris and Taylor remained hidden behind other gang members as the confrontation escalated. The females began running when the shooting began, he said.

Harris allegedly fled the scene with another gang member immediately after the shooting, Shivers testified.

Under cross-examination by Carter, Shivers said that police got “conflicting stories” over when phone calls were placed and who was called, referring to Harris’ alleged call to other alleged gang members.  

Police have not recovered the cell phone that Harris allegedly used to call for help, Shivers told Carter.

Carter was successful in convincing McKenzie to reduce Harris’s bond from $350,000 to $100,000.

Hale acknowledged that Harris has no prior criminal record, though he cited incidents of ongoing gang retaliation and suggested she was safer in jail.

Questioned by McKenzie, Shivers acknowledged that Harris had turned herself in to authorities when her family learned police had an arrest warrant for her.

“What day was Ms. Harris arrested?” McKenzie asked.

“January twentieth,” Shivers replied.

“When did they take you into custody?” McKenzie asked Harris.

“Eleven at night,” she replied.  

Shivers further explained to McKenzie that Harris decided to surrender to police after someone shot into her brother’s mobile home.

Authorities reported drive-by shootings on Ridge Road and Tubbs Road following Wright’s shooting.

Shivers told a reporter the shooting he mentioned in court was a third shooting that police did not make public.