By Justin Vicory and Therese Apel, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Two Brookhaven police officers were killed in a shootout early Saturday morning, and the suspect, wounded and in custody, had a history of run-ins with law enforcement.
The officers, who were responding around 5 a.m. to a report of shots fired at a house, were identified as Patrolman James White, 35, and Cpl. Zach Moak, 31.
“Two heroes lost their lives today,” Police Chief Kenneth Collins said at a news conference Saturday.
“They responded to the call and another was under fire, and that’s when the officer jumped in to help. They’re both heroes,” he said.
Suspect Marquis Flowers, 25, wounded in the gunfire, was taken into custody and transported to a Jackson hospital.
He is the only suspect involved, although others have been questioned about the shooting, Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said at the news conference.
Brookhaven police received the call from a neighborhood about a mile north of the Brookhaven high school on the eastern side of town at about 4:47 a.m.
White responded to the residence at 630 North Sixth St. first, with Moak quickly behind him.
The chief said both officers were wearing bulletproof vests and equipped with body and dashcam cameras.
Strain said the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, which is investigating the shooting, will review any recording for additional details on what happened.
Strain said his department could have an update on the case as soon as Monday.
Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris declined to give details on the shootings, such as where the two officers were shot, citing the MBI investigation. He said officials with King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven pronounced the two officers deceased at about 5:30 a.m.
By mid-morning, MBI had sealed off the three roads leading to the residence as residents looked on from their porches. Witnesses had different recollections of what occurred Saturday morning.
Some said they hadn’t heard any gunshots in the densely packed neighborhood. Another resident, who asked not to be identified, said he did hear the shots and immediately jumped to the floor for safety.
One resident said it wasn’t unusual to hear gunshots in that part of town.
Collins described the events that unfolded as something that could happen to his officers anytime, anywhere.
“We answer those calls many times, and nothing ever happens. One hundred times — just that one time is all it takes,” he said.
Moak graduated from Enterprise Attendance Center in Lincoln County and studied auto mechanics at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He began his career with BPD in August 2015.
White had returned to work for the department in June 2015 after a stint with the Monticello Police Department, about 20 miles east of Brookhaven.
Flowers, of Brookhaven, had several run-ins with area law enforcement, according to the Brookhaven Daily Leader.
In February 2017, he led law enforcement on a “high-speed chase” after failing to yield for a traffic stop. Flowers was wearing an electronic monitor at the time and was on probation for vehicle burglary in Lincoln County.
The shooting deaths come 16 months after former Brookhaven officer turned Lincoln County Deputy William Durr was killed in a shooting rampage that left seven others dead as well.
Willie Cory Godbolt, who was arrested May 28, 2017, in that case, is awaiting trial. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
(Learn More. A shooting rampage in Mississippi took the lives of eight people, including a sheriff’s deputy, William Durr, after responding to a domestic disturbance call. Courtesy of CBS This Morning and YouTube. Posted on May 29, 2017.)