Murder suspect dead after shootout in Panola County
By Rupert Howell
District Attorney John Champion claimed law enforcement officials were brave and heroic in their response to a suspected murderer who died following a wreck and a hail of gunfire Sunday afternoon on I-55 just north of Como.
Panola County Sheriff Dennis Darby said his department was involved in the back side of the chase that ended with a wreck and shooting of suspect Eric Higgs of Martin, Tenn. He was thought to be connected with the Tennessee murder of his wife five days earlier.
One law enforcement official said a tag reader, a device that reads tag numbers and checks against a bank of numbers registered with NCIC, spotted the vehicle in DeSoto County and alerted Desoto County Sheriff’s Department with an officer from Hernando Police Department first attempting to initiate a traffic stop.
Darby referred all questions concerning the investigation to the DA or MBI Investigator Brian Sullivan but said the suspect was traveling at estimated speeds in excess of 100 mph and lost control, crossing the median and hitting an 18-wheeler in the northbound lane.
“It was a hard lick,” according to Darby who said the incident occurred approximately one-half mile north of the Como exit in Panola County after the suspect traveled southbound through DeSoto, Tate and then Panola County.
The officer wounded was a Hernando policeman and his injury was reported as minor, according to the DA.
A WMC-TV report quoted truck driver Larry Williams stating, “I saw the police officers with their guns out, pointing it at the car.”
Darby said shots were fired by the suspect after the collision and officers could see movement and moved back while diverting traffic to Highway 51 from the Como exit to the south Senatobia exit.
“Four of them tried to approach the car; when they did, something happened, I don’t know if they pointed a gun at them or what but they unloaded on them,” truck driver Williams said in the WMC report.
A local witness said she also saw the wreck and four officers approaching the wrecked vehicle when a shot was fired and two officers fell to the ground.
She said a volley of what she thought was about 20 shots rang out.
Darby notified DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco who sent a helicopter and armored vehicle to the location.
The suspect was determined to be dead and was later cut out of the 2015 Audi he was driving with Darby stating he didn’t know if shots fired or the impact was cause of death.
His body has been sent to Jackson for an autopsy according to Panola County Coroner Gracie Gullege.