Someone with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun came to the intersection of Poplar Avenue and High Street just before 1 a.m. Thursday and fired off nine to 10 rounds before leaving in a car.
The sounds awoke this reporter, and I counted them as they went off, then heard the car leaving.
Calls to the Greenwood Police Department Thursday morning were directed to a woman who insisted the shooting occurred in Leflore County and would therefore not be the responsibility of Greenwood police. She said sound travels.
Chief Ray Moore also said the report indicated the shooting occurred in the county, that two police officers who were at the boat ramp behind the American Legion Hut heard nothing, and that a car dispatched to the scene of Poplar and Crockett Avenue — less than 100 feet from where the shots were fired — didn’t find “a man standing in the street firing a gun” and found no shell casings on the pavement. The end.
A visit to the corner of High and Poplar at first glance found three casings lying in the street and one in the grass, a few feet from the road. What the person who pulled the trigger was shooting at isn’t apparent.
When called to the scene, Sgt. Steve Noble found two more shell casings in the street and one more in the grass, then picked them up using rubber gloves and dropped them into a plastic storage bag supplied by one of the neighbors. He identified them as 9mm casings.
A neighbor found two more, bringing the total to nine. That neighbor also said he heard the shots just feet away from his house, saw the flashes from the muzzle of the gun, and called police with the location at High and Poplar.
“We’ve got the shell casings; they’ll be sent to the Crime Lab,” Moore said. “They’ll be entered into IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) to see if maybe they may match other shell casings from other weapons that are entered into that system. ...
“If we catch someone with the same caliber weapon down there and have probable cause to seize that weapon, then we’ll see if that weapon doesn’t match the shell casings we recovered.”
Asked if his department would do anything different after the Thursday morning shooting, Moore said, “We already patrol that area. ... We’re going to do our regular patrol in that area. ...We’re going to have patrols in that area. We are going to patrol that area. That’s my answer.”
Ward 6 City Councilman David Jordan said, “A lot can be done. We need more people patrolling that area. Everybody can’t throw up their hands. We need more patrolling.”
Jordan explained the Police Department is short-handed and has difficulty attracting qualified candidates to the job because of a low starting salary.
He said the city needed more money to get more patrols on the street.
“Ordinary people, I don‘t care who they are, need protecting, and they need services,” he said. “Where people see a police car, it has a psychological effect on them. Patrolling is the game.”
Jordan said safety shouldn‘t be offered only for people living in one part of the city, but “the bottom line is an adequate force to patrol the entire city.”
“We can’t pass the buck when people are shooting in the street,” he said.
Ward 2 City Councilwoman Lisa Cookston said of the shooting, “That’s frightening. And I can‘t believe they weren’t caring very much and weren’t looking for the shell casings.”
Mayor Carolyn McAdams said such shootings occur frequently on Broad Street, McLaurin Street, and the Alphabet Avenues on the city’s south side, “which is horrible at best.”
She sees more police working more patrols, and the city’s new system of surveillance cameras as helping stop the shooting.
“The reason we can’t just place an officer at that corner is we don’t have enough,” she said.
The surveillance system is still being installed with five or six cameras in place around the city, providing images into the dispatch office at the Police Department. McAdams said she asked Public Works Director Susan Bailey to look at High Street as another possible location. More cameras will be added as the city can afford them, she said.
“(The Police Department) has been understaffed for quite some time because we just can’t get people to apply,” McAdams said. “When they do apply, sometimes they don’t pass the physical exam; sometimes they don’t pass the psych exam. Sometimes they go to the police academy and are dismissed from the police academy because they just can’t handle the testing and the physical capacity that comes with all that.”
The city takes advantage of career days in the Delta to attract qualified candidates and has begun recruiting efforts at Mississippi State University, she said.
Police departments across the country are reporting shortages, McAdams said, and she doesn’t think it has to do with starting salaries being too low.
“We’ve raised it,” she said. “It’s not that. It’s the rap that they’re getting. It’s the criticism that they’re repeatedly being given. If they fire and shoot somebody, they’re in jeopardy, their career’s in jeopardy. So, nobody wants to be one. It’s a hard thing to sell.”
McAdams said the city is considering ways to offer potential candidates a chance to shadow officers at work, and also giving senior Boy Scouts and Explorers the opportunity to find out more about policing as a career.
“We’re trying to do everything we can,” McAdams said.
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or email@example.com.