NETTLETON — A verbal argument inside a vehicle Wednesday ended with three people dead, two of them brothers, in the center of a small northeast Mississippi town.
One man pulled a gun, shot two others and ended up shot dead by a Nettleton police officer, Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said late Wednesday.
Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said the three victims and the vehicle’s driver, who survived, all worked at the United Furniture plant.
Cantrell said the first victim was a co-worker who had traveled to a bank with the others while on a lunch break and “was just in the wrong place.” The second victim was the shooter’s brother, he said, and the driver was the shooter’s son.
“It’s just the wildest thing we’ve ever seen,” he said.
The incident started just before noon when, according to a witness, a silver Chevrolet Trailblazer left the plant with four men inside.
The men drove east down Main Street, which straddles the line between Lee and Monroe counties. After several hundred yards, Johnson said, one of the vehicle’s occupants shot two others with a handgun.
“There was some kind of argument that happened at some point, and it resulted in this guy pulling a gun out and shooting,” he said.
One man, shot in the chest, fell out of the vehicle, authorities said. He was taken to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, where he died. A second, wounded man tried to run away, the sheriff said, but the shooter ran after him and shot the wounded man multiple times. He died on the street from gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
While the foot chase was going on, a Nettleton police officer drove up and began speaking to the Trailblazer’s driver. Johnson said the gunman approached from behind the police car and began shooting, hitting the car but not the officer. The police car’s back window was shot out.
The officer returned fire and shot the gunman, who also died on the scene, Johnson said.
“There were nine holes in that patrolman’s car,” Cantrell said. “I don’t know how he didn’t shoot him. I really don’t. It’s just a bad, bad, bad situation.”
Johnson said that the only survivor from the Trailblazer doesn’t appear to be involved and is unlikely to face criminal charges.
“He is a major witness helping us piece this together,” Johnson said.
Asked if investigators had determined what sparked the shootings, Cantrell said, “We don’t know. We’ve heard rumors but there’s nothing concrete at this time.”
The shooting is being investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and Mississippi Highway Patrol.
The names of the four men haven’t been released yet. Johnson said all the men had addresses in Lee and Monroe counties and all knew each other well.
The shootings happened in a residential area of the 2,000 population town, less than two blocks away from its public schools. Johnson said the schools were locked down for a time, but the alert was later lifted.
“It is crazy,” he said. “This is a very quiet, sort of Mayberry town.”