Gulfport homicide victim identified; 1 in custody

Gulfport homicide victim identified; 1 in custody
Neighbors say they stay inside to avoid crime. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Neighbors say they stay inside to avoid crime. (Photo source: WLOX News)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport police are searching for answers in connection with an early morning shooting that took a man's life.

Christopher Jerome Smith, 30, was found dead on a back porch at Gulf Mist Apartments complex before sunrise Friday morning. Twenty-five-year-old Michael Phillip Peden was arrested and charged with first degree murder around 4:30 p.m.

"State of shock about what happened out here. You can't trust nobody nowadays at all," said Pamela Taylor.

Police say a call was made around 3:30 a.m. reporting shots fired. Peden and Smith were reportedly arguing when Peden shot the victim multiple times in the upper torso, then left the scene. According to complex manager Jamie Hatcher, Smith has been banned from Gulf Mist since sometime in 2015.

Nearby residents say the noise wasn't out of the ordinary.

"I didn't know what it was. I heard the noise but I didn't know what it was because, you know, out here they pop firecrackers. It don't have to be Fourth of July or anything, you just hear stuff popping off," said Larice Hinton.

Hinton says she and her family were asleep when the crime happened, but it didn't take long to figure out that something was wrong. Police officers and investigators surrounded the complex, quickly setting up a perimeter and beginning the process of sifting through clues.

"When stuff like that happens, only thing we can do is take precautions and try to stay as safe as we could. That's too close to home, you know," said Robbie Hinton.

The Hintons say they try not to venture out too much within the complex.

"We just stay in the house. That's why we stay in the house to avoid these types of situations," said Larice.

According to some of the residents, the incident is not enough to make people pack up and move.

"Things happen. Freak incidents happen. You can't keep them secluded and things of that nature from outside play and stuff like that. You just have to be more cautious of your surroundings," said Deanna Necaise.

After being booked, Peden was taken to the Harrison County Adult Detention Facility where he is being held in lieu of at $1 million bond.

The crime adds to a growing list of homicides in the city of Gulfport, where there have already been eight fatal shootings in 2016.

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