GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Police say Frank Rhodes shot first. The family doesn't think so. The announcement that a Harrison County grand jury cleared those officers of any wrongdoing was almost as hard to take as the day of the shooting for his widow, Hazel Rhodes, and daughter, Lashanna.
"When I got that on the news, I just broke down," Hazel said. "I said, 'Lord, why today?' And my anniversary's tomorrow."
Lashanna was equally taken aback.
"I felt real bad," she said. "I had to leave work. I was crying. I just couldn't believe that the results would come back that he got off because he killed my dad. They're saying he shot back and my dad shot at him first."
The police report says that just after 10 p.m. on June 13, officers responded to a call of shots fired on Holliman Circle in Gulfport. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations said Rhodes fired shots at officers first, and the officers returned fire.
Rhodes was shot four times, and Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said it was a shot to the head that killed him.
"When they shot him, the lady told me my husband turned," Hazel said. "When they shot him again, he fell to the ground. You didn't have to shoot him in the head. He was already handicapped."
The family, who says Rhodes suffered from tremors, is challenging the results and have retained an attorney, whose name they won't release.
"It's not the last," Lashanna said. "We're going to fight it. Everybody in the neighborhood will tell you he was the sweetest man. He'll take off the shirt off his back and give it to anybody. So, for him to say my dad shot first, I don't believe it. I want to see a video tape. Somebody show me a video tape. I'd love to see it. Let me see the video tape that he shot first."
The Gulfport Police Department would not comment on the case, but in a press release, Chief Leonard Papania defended his officers stating, "This was the first of two incidents in six months where Gulfport police officers were shot at while protecting our city."