CANTON — A Mississippi prosecutor said he plans to further examine an earlier felony arrest of the man accused in a Mississippi courthouse shooting.
Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said he didn’t know about the June 28 arrest of William B. Wells, 24, for aggravated assault until The Associated Press asked Guest about it Tuesday.
Guest said Wells was charged after a fistfight where he fired a gun into the ground.
Wells is accused of fatally shooting a defendant outside the county courthouse in Canton on Monday. He’s charged with murder, with bail set at $300,000 Tuesday. He remained jailed early Wednesday.
Officials are investigating whether Wells was retaliating for Saturday’s shooting of his mother, Sherry Wells, who survived. She had been scheduled to testify against defendant Kendrick Armond Brown. Indicted on felony cocaine charges, Brown could have faced up to life in prison under Mississippi’s three strikes habitual offender law because of two earlier felony drug convictions.
Police had said Monday that Wells had never been in serious trouble. But Tuesday, Gwendolyn Miles, deputy court clerk in Canton’s municipal court, confirmed the charge. As a felony, it was sent to Madison County Circuit Court, she said.
Guest didn’t know who else was involved in the fight at Wells’ home or whether anyone else was arrested. The prosecutor said he intended to examine the Canton police file Wednesday to determine whether that case should be presented to a grand jury.
Canton Police Chief Otha Brown did not return calls seeking comment.
Municipal court documents show Wells pleaded guilty July 1 to a misdemeanor charge of firing a gun inside city limits. That charge stemmed from the fight, Guest said. Wells was sentenced to six months’ unsupervised probation on the gun charge, paying $512.75 in fines and court costs. He was free on $50,000 bail on the assault charges, Miles said.
It was unclear whether either case or the conditions of his earlier bail should have prevented Wells from possessing a firearm. A semiautomatic handgun was used in Monday’s shooting.
No records of the charge appeared in a Monday search of circuit court records by The Associated Press, not surprising since Wells hasn’t been indicted. Prosecutors could also decide to drop the charge.
The AP found the charge after Wells told Madison County Justice Court Judge Mamie Chinn during his bail hearing that he had been convicted of a charge in Canton.
Guest expressed surprise that there was no record of Wells being processed through the Madison County Jail on the assault charge.
He said Canton police allowed Wells to post bail at the police station, which Guest described as “extremely out of the ordinary on such a serious charge.”
Wells, a former Canton firefighter, told Chinn that he works for M-Tek, a company that makes interior trim for Nissan Motor Co.’s Canton assembly plant. He said he is engaged to be married.
Chinn described the charge against Wells as “serious,” but agreed to set bail, warning Wells not to have any contact with others involved in the case, saying she was concerned for “the safety and security of all involved” considering the allegations of retaliation.
John Christopher, a lawyer who was representing Wells, did not object to the bond amount following the hearing, saying it was “totally within the judge’s discretion.” He declined comment on the allegations against Wells, saying he had just been hired.
Kentravious Brooks, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, described himself as a close friend of Wells since childhood.
“I hate to see it,” Brooks said. “He’s a young cat, smart.”
The 25-year-old Brooks said he would stand by Wells, but said he could understand the possibility that Wells might have been angered by his mother’s shooting.
“To try to kill your mama, I mean…,” Brooks said.
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