Sheriff Backs Away From Questions About Officers' Actions

Coahoma County Sheriff Andrew Thompson Jr. on Tuesday backed off from questions he raised about officers' actions in trying to apprehend a shooting suspect in Friars Point.

Thompson and the Mississippi Highway Patrol were investigating the scene Monday, a task complicated by the number of shots fired Sunday morning in the 32-hour ordeal. On Monday, Thompson said officers did not wait for proper backup when they tried to enter the house where the suspect, 19-year-old Patrick Hopper, was holed up.

Two officers were shot during that forced entry, and one of the wounded was taken hostage. The officers were identified as Deputy Victor Randle and Friars Point Officer John Martin Harris.

"I've learned more since then,'' Thompson said Tuesday. "Their intent was only to secure the owner of the house (Patrick Parker). After they entered the house, they were basically ambushed.''

Thompson said the two officers were given the order to locate Parker by the Highway Patrol. Thompson also said the joint operation this weekend was hampered by communications problems.

"Different agencies operate on different radio frequencies,'' he said. "Coordinating communication can be a little difficult. In tense situations like this one, things like that can happen.''

He said once all the officers were on the scene, they relied on verbal communication rather than radio communication.

"We're all going to meet once things calm down to work out and address this problem,'' Thompson said.

Hopper remained Tuesday in the county jail, charged with one count of aggravated assault. Other charges are pending.

Friars Point Police Chief Anthony Smith, who is recuperating from a gunshot wound to the neck, said he and the four officers wounded in the standoff were blessed.

"It wasn't time to get our cards punched, I guess,'' he said from his sister's house in nearby Jonestown.

Smith, 45, was investigating a Friday night shooting and looking for a suspect nicknamed 'Fat Pat' when he saw Patrick Hopper on a corner about 3 p.m. Saturday and pulled over.

"When I turned my head to put the keys down on the seat, there he was in the window, shooting,'' Smith said.

The bullet entered and exited the left side of his neck. Smith doesn't remember much, although he says he didn't fully lose consciousness. He was taken to The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, then released. The other officers remained in satisfactory condition Tuesday.

Later, a standoff brought nearly 75 state and nearby law enforcement officers to the Coahoma County town about 75 miles south of Memphis. Over the next 12 hours, four of them were shot, and one was taken hostage.

Mayor Herbert L. Thomas, a former town police officer and now a detective in Tunica County, did not know the motive for the Friday shooting that sent Doyle Hunter to The Med. Hunter remained there Tuesday in satisfactory condition.