Two Shrimpers Arrested On First Day Of Season - - The News for South Mississippi

Two Shrimpers Arrested On First Day Of Season

Shrimpers never know what to expect when they drop their nets to start a new shrimp season.  However, it's safe to say, no one expected gunfire and a rescue at sea. The Department of Marine Resource's Marine Patrol officers who usually concentrate on catch limits found themselves in a high speed water chase with weapons drawn. Danielle Thomas was with the Marine Patrol when reports of gun shots came in.

The Marine Patrol boat set out into the Gulf of Mexico to monitor the first day the 2007 shrimp season. That quickly changed with a call from dispatch. A shrimper had alerted authorities that a man was in the water north of Horn Island. The caller also said shots had been fired.

Master Sergeant R.T. May put the boat in high gear, and raced to an area known as Dog's Key Pass. Officer William Freeman quickly put on his bullet proof vest and loaded his gun to be ready for anything.

"The vessel's name is Big Boy?," May confirmed with dispatch. Locating one shrimp boat among the hundreds wasn't easy. 

Master Sgt. May told his partner "Will, keep your ear to that radio. I'm going to swing over to these other boats just in case he's there."

After a few minutes of searching Master Sgt. May spotted the Big Boy.

"Right here," he said "Here's your boat. Get ready."

As the first officers on the scene, May and Freeman couldn't be sure what had gone on aboard the Big Boy or what kind of danger still might be ahead.

Armed with a shot gun Freeman carefully boarded the shrimp boat.

"Get the crew out. Get the crew out now," May yelled to him.

"Get down on the ground now. Get down," Freeman screamed to the boat crew.

May radioed in to dispatch that the "crew is face down on the deck."

Then he told me and two DMR public relations people to get down and stay down. We did. Then May rushed to assist his partner. We couldn't see what was going on outside but we could hear the commotion.

DMR public relations staffer Susan Perkins said "I've been at the DMR for eight years and this is the first time I've been out on the opening day of shrimp season. So this is not what I expected at all. But I know that anything can happen anytime at all on opening day."

It took just a few minutes from spotting the Big Boy to getting two men in handcuffs. By then, reinforcements had arrived. A third man who had been on the shrimp boat told officials his shipmates shot at him. He ended up in the water and was rescued by another shrimper that notified authorities. 

The two shrimpers on the Big Boy were arrested and taken to the Jackson County Jail. Police charged Chuong Phan of Ocean Springs with aggravated assault and possession of a controlled substance. Tam Le of Biloxi is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and falsifying information.

After the incident, officers got back to their duties of inspecting boats and making sure each shrimper's catch is within the legal limit. The Department of Marine Resources says some 300 boats took to the water on Wednesday. The shrimpers we talked to said they were pretty happy with the amount and size of their catch. The captain of the Lucky Lauren said Katrina repairs kept his boat docked last year so he was more than ready to get out this year.

Captain Thi Toan said he missed "The weather. The peace and quiet, I don't miss about diesel prices though. That's way to high."

DMR officials say they've issued 356 commercial shrimping licenses to Mississippi residents and another 120 to out-of-state shrimpers.

 by Danielle Thomas

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