On Monday, the day before Christmas Eve, Police Sergeant Gale Stauffer was shot and killed by an assault rifle, and another officer was seriously wounded.
It happened when officers interrupted a robbery at BanCorp South’s Gloster Creek Village branch as the criminals were making their getaway. Witnesses reported seeing one man wearing a ski mask, and carrying an AK-47, the assault rifle that was used on the officers.
Stauffer joined the force in 2005 and has a wife and two young children. He died shortly after the shooting. The other officer, just 26 years of age was listed in critical condition at a local hospital.
Tupelo, Mississippi is deeply saddened at the tragedy and local television station WTVA reported Monday's shooting could have marked the first death of a police officer in the line of duty in at least 29 years in Tupelo, MS, a small town that is 170 miles northeast of Jackson.
A passer-by, Kenny Steen, heard a racket coming from a pawn store in Tupelo: “We heard some, just a real, ‘burr, burr’ real fast, so we came out and there was cop cars coming they stopped right here in the street,” he said.
Steen added, that he witnessed the moment the officer was shot: “Soon as I came out, there was an officer actually falling, going down.”
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton acknowledged the community’s grief and called on residents to attend a candlelight vigil on Christmas Eve to honor Stauffer’s bravery.
“The law enforcement is leaving no stone unturned. They’re out following every lead and certainly just pray that they fugitives can be captured,” Mayor Shelton said.
"It's just tragic. It's just so much worse when it's this close to home," Shelton added.
The FBI is now on the case and a reward is being offered to anyone who can assist them in locating the suspects. The man witnesses saw has been described as 5'9" to 6' tall, a thin build with a light black complexion.
Local businesses have donated funds for a reward to anyone with information that leads to an arrest. The reward has reached $160,000.
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