By Jeremy Weldon
Police continue to investigate a string of shootings in southwest Batesville during the past week that have left one person dead, another in serious condition in a Memphis hospital, and at least two others with gunshot wounds.
George Douglas Mister III, 23, died from an apparent gunshot wound to the head while sitting on the front porch at 113 Martin Luther King Dr. late Friday, June 8. He was flown to The Med in Memphis where he later died of his wound. Police are unsure whether it was self-inflicted and no ruling has been made as the cause of death.
Investigators were told by eyewitnesses that Mister had accidently shot himself while playing with a pistol, but family members later contacted police asserting that Mister had been targeted and killed by one of the witnesses.
Chief Jimmy McCloud said the investigation into the death remains open while police wait for the results of an autopsy and forensic tests. Wound patterns, gunpowder residue, and other findings will give authorities a better understanding of what happened at the scene.
Two days later, at approximately 11 p.m. Monday, police were alerted to gunshots being fired on Noble St. The first patrolmen on the scene reported hearing several shots from different directions and finding multiple people injured.
No arrests were made at the scene, but three men were taken for medical treatment. Two of those individuals have been released from the hospital, but a third remains in serious condition in Memphis.
Police reported the Monday night shooting drew many people from the neighborhood to the scene, and a “large, volatile crowd” was also at the Panola Medical Center emergency room, most of them angry with police.
Recovered at the scene on Monday were five handguns and the subsequent investigation revealed that three of those had been reported stolen. Police have tied the shootings together based on information picked up from street interviews, but the overall investigation has been stymied due to an uncooperative public.
McCloud said his officers have been flustered by the lack of information coming from neighborhood residents.
He said the two men injured in the gunfight Monday have flatly refused to tell police who shot them. “They both said they heard gunshots and started running,” he said.
Police believe these statements to be untrue, but have not charged either with a crime because they were not found with weapons and no witnesses will cooperate with police.
McCloud went to the scene of the Monday night shooting, and said he also could no cooperation. “We want these to be safe neighborhoods and places where citizens aren’t in danger, but we can’t help them if they won’t tell us what they know.”
McCloud said his interaction with a woman on the scene is indicative of the prevailing attitude in that neighborhood that keeps residents from talking to police.
“I asked this woman what happened, and she was there so she knows, and she said, ‘You tell me, you’re the police,’” McCloud said. “She told me that the police didn’t want to do anything to help them, but she wouldn’t give me any information. It’s just frustrating, and it keeps us from doing our job and protecting the people of our city.”
It is also unclear to what degree the man currently in the hospital was a participant, police said. Investigators have not spoken with him, the chief said.
“I promise this is not over and the police will continue to work this case until we get to the truth,” McCloud said. “My message to the people who are living around this nonsense is that the quicker police know the facts the quicker we can arrest those responsible for making their neighborhood dangerous.”
The chief reminds citizens that any information given will be kept confidential in the course of investigations. “We really need the help of the people who know what happened because this type of activity will not by tolerated by the Batesville Police Department.”
On a brighter note, McCloud also said the two policemen who risked their lives to save the driver of a crashed 18-wheeler on I-55 two weeks ago have been cleared to return to work.
The officers, Zach White and Doug Allen, will be recognized at the regular scheduled meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Tuesday afternoon at City Hall, and given commendations for their heroic efforts to save the driver’s life.