More In Lifestyle
By JB Clark
TUPELO – Itawamba Community College’s film club will be evolving in the coming year thanks to a more than $100,000 equipment donation from a filmmaker.
Kat Phillips, of Kat Scratch Films, presented a Sony Cinealta high-definition camera along with an HD monitor and other filming equipment to ICC officials at Malco Cinema on Saturday during the Tupelo Film Festival.
“This year marks the 10th anniversary of my very first film’s debut at the Tupelo Film Festival,” Phillips said. “Ron Tibbet and Pat Rasberry reinforced that I should stay in film when I was upset about the process of getting films into festivals. They said to stay with it and I did.”
Phillips, a Mississippi native, said since then, she has seen a wealth of filmmaking talent in Mississippi, especially in Tupelo, and wanted to help nurture that.
“There are a lot of extraordinarily talented kids – filmmakers – in Tupelo, and grown-ups too,” she said. “It’s like how a lot of great writers came out of Mississippi. The filmmakers just don’t have the resources to build their talent. This is really high-end equipment that will let them see the world in cinema quality.”
Itawamba Community College President Mike Eaton said thanks to the donation and the determination of the 30 film club members, the college will add film courses in the fall.
Phillips said Mississippi has wonderful and attractive tax incentives for filmmakers but a lack of film programs and industry exposure requires filmmakers to fly in film crew for their projects.
“When we shot here we had to fly in trained crew members, to have a program that trains crew for films would be another advantage,” she said.
Eaton said the college can now add a couple courses to “broaden the horizons for people who are interested in film. Now, we don’t have a film program yet, but certainly this is the first step in possibly developing something of that nature in the future.”
Rasberry’s newest film, “Chasing the White Dragon,” was shot on the donated camera and has been named best feature, best drama feature narrative, best ensemble case, best screenplay and best supporting actor at various film festivals across the country.
By JB Clark
TUPELO – Edwin Crenshaw stood at the foot of the hill in front of the Wellness Center on Saturday, shouting at exhausted men and women as they jogged to the top of a water slide and dove down.
“Hit it!” he shouted. “Dive!”
When they reached the bottom, he clicked his stopwatch.
The slide was the last of 17 obstacles in the Boerner Be Wild fitness challenge course.
The event was created in memory of the late community and fitness advocate Hank Boerner, who died unexpectedly in December 2012. He served as North Mississippi Medical Center’s Wellness Center director and as co-chairman of the Healthy Tupelo Task Force.
“He was all about fitness, exercise for kids and the Tupelo health task Force,” said Crenshaw, the Wellness Center’s fitness supervisor. “This is our first time to do this course but I think it’s going to turn out real well. Last year we did a smaller version at Ballard Park and we’re playing with it to see how it works.”
Crewshaw said they hope to combine the course, which is geared toward adults, with something more kid-friendly for next year’s Boerner Be Wild event.
“You’ve got the jump rope, and then the tractor tire flip, they’ll run around the track to a culvert and crawl through it,” Crenshaw explained. “And then the sit-ups, sledge hammer toss, squat throw with a weighted ball, plow jumps, they pull a tree, monkey bars, run through the wooded trail up to a 500-meter row, wall climb with a water-slide at the end. A combination of all that can tax you.”
Amy Fagan, one of the first to complete the course, said some of the obstacles were a blast and others were difficult.
“The course was challenging and a great workout,” she said. “The ending was the slide and that was a nice reward because I got really hot on the course.”
Larry Coggin said he had fun with the tire flip and the water-slide finish but the log pull gave him the most trouble.
“It’s a 300-pound log,” he said. “I’m no lumberjack, and that was hard.”
The proceeds from the event will be distributed through the Healthy Tupelo Task Force for projects to educate youth on the importance of physical fitness. Boerner Be Wild events last year raised $10,000. The task force already has made its first grant of $500 to support the Boern to Run kids races, which will be held April 25 at Fairpark.
By JB Clark
TUPELO – A Tupelo man died from injuries sustained in an early morning fire Saturday.
Romero Hampton, 41, was in his 201 South Foster Street home with his wife early Saturday morning.
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Green said he woke his wife up and she was able to exit the home but he was not. He was pronounced dead at 6:06 a.m. at the North Mississippi Medical Center.
Green said he appears to have suffered from smoke inhalation but an autopsy will be performed Monday to be sure.
The Tupelo Fire Department and Tupelo Police Department are still investigating the fire.
TUPELO – Northeast Mississippians have opportunities next weekend to clean out their medicine cabinets and safely dispose of any unused, unwanted or expired medications.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office will collect prescription drugs Friday and the Tupelo Police Department will do the same Saturday.
The service is free and anonymous. Anyone with expired or unused prescription drugs can bring them to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. where they will be collected, no questions asked, and disposed of by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office collected 100 pounds of prescription drugs in April of last year during the drug take-back.
Anyone who cannot make it to the sheriff’s office has a second opportunity at the CVS at Crosstown in Tupelo. The Tupelo Police Department will be on site collecting prescriptions from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday.
Tupelo Police Capt. Tony McCoy said it is a good idea to remove labels from the bottles before dropping them off for the sake of privacy.
“I think it’s important because, if you keep the old meds around, they certainly have a shelf life and expire,” he said. “And if you have children in the home, you don’t want them getting their hands on old medicines that could harm them.”
Sheriff Jim Johnson said it also helps prevent pill theft and abuse by ridding homes of excess medicines that otherwise may be diverted for illegal uses.
Outside Lee County and also from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday , prescriptions can be dropped off with Booneville Police Department representatives at the CVS in Booneville, at the Fulton Walmart with the Fulton Police Department, at the Union County Sheriff’s Office and at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department.
By JB Clark
NETTLETON – Debra Worthy was in Tupelo around noon Wednesday when her son called to tell her about the shooting happening just outside his front door – an incident that left three people dead.
“He called me so I would know before I heard it in the news or on Facebook or before I tried to come over,” Worthy said. “I told him to put my grandbabies in the middle of the house and lock the doors. I’m still thanking God for watching over my babies. He may be 36, but he’s still my baby.”
Thursday morning, Worthy was watching her grandchildren at her son’s Main Street Nettleton home while he was at work. She said she was shocked to hear of the shooting happening downtown in Nettleton, such a quiet town.
Worthy’s son heard the gunshots and then saw Otis Bass, 49, who police say was the shooter, chasing his brother, Joseph Bass, 44, down Main Street while firing at him.
The two Shannon men were in a vehicle together stopped at the intersection of Mullen Avenue and Main Street when police say the elder Bass began firing.
Worthy said her son then saw Bass shooting at a police officer before being shot himself, by the police officer, right in their front yard.
“He was laying right there,” she said pointing to the sidewalk between her house and her neighbors’. “It’s sad that anything like this would happen, especially here.”
Gunshots, not fireworks
Tony Plunkett was finishing a patch on a customer’s tire at Frank’s Tire Shop when they both heard what they thought to be fireworks.
“We were talking about the price and everything when they started firing up the road at the stop sign,” Plunkett said. “We heard the gunshots there but didn’t, you know, think it was gunshots at first.
“And then (someone) screamed and we seen a guy run down the sidewalk here and fall right in front of that four-wheeler,” he said, pointing out of the shop’s garage door toward the street in front of the store. “The other guy walked up to him and just shot him.”
Plunkett said he saw Otis Bass stand over his brother and shoot him five times.
“It looked like a 9 mm automatic handgun,” Plunkett said. “He probably shot 15-20 times.”
Plunkett closed the shop door, brought his customers inside, locked up and called 911. That’s when the police car approached the stopped vehicle.
“I was on the phone when the officer passed, and I said, ‘Your officer just passed the body on the road,’” Plunkett said. “About that time is when the gunman opened fire on the police officer, blowing out the back glass. And then the officer bailed out and returned fire.”
Plunkett said he has never in his life seen anything like what happened Wednesday and would be happy never to see anything like it again.
Neither Worthy nor Plunkett – nor the people in Frank’s Shop with Plunkett – were familiar with the two brothers or the other shooting victim, Jamie Guinn, 33, of Mantachie.
Nettleton Police Chief A.D. Heard said they have not had any previous encounters with any of the three involved in Wednesday’s shooting.
Heard said his officer is still on leave until he is cleared to return by investigators, and is doing fine.
“Everything is back to usual, but it will be a while before everyone gets over the murders,” he said.
The murders are the first since Heard became police chief in July, and he said they’re the only ones he can remember in Nettleton.
“It’s sad that people got killed, but we’re thankful the officer was able to take care of the situation and keep anyone else from getting hurt,” said Nettleton Mayor Jimmy Taylor.
The only damage to city property were the bullet holes in the patrol vehicle and the shattered back windshield.
“Bullets went through the trunk into the back seat area,” Taylor said. “That sort of thing can be fixed, and we’re just glad no one else was hurt.”
Police say the two Bass brothers, Guin and one other person were in the same vehicle traveling toward downtown from United Furniture around 11:40 a.m. Wednesday. As they approached the intersection, police say the elder Bass fired a gun multiple times, wounding the other two. The younger Bass fled down Main Street, pursued by his brother.
When police arrived, Bass had shot his brother and Guin multiple times. The responding officer was shot at and returned fire, killing Bass. Guin was airlifted to North Mississippi Medical Center where he later died.
While officials say the altercation began at United Furniture, it has not been confirmed whether any of those involved in the shooting were employed there.
The shooting is still being investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations.
By JB Clark
TUPELO – Renasant Bank announced Thursday morning it has purchased the naming rights to Tupelo High School’s newly approved blue turf field.
The bank will be paying $140,000 over 10 years, according to B.B. Hosch, Tupelo Community Bank president at Renasant, for the rights to call the new football field Renasant Field.
The rights will include Renasant Bank’s logo on the field’s 25-yard lines.
“I come in here and look at the banners and the first thing on Renasant’s banner is ‘Great Communities,’” said THS Athletic Director Andy Schoggin. “Without a doubt, strong schools and strong communities go hand in hand.”
Schoggin said he is glad to see the partnership between the school district and a corporation with a strong brand name.
“We’re extremely proud of our school district and happy to be a part of this announcement,” Hosch said. “We’re the largest bank by market share in Tupelo and Lee County and we think it’s appropriate to have this partnership with the largest high school in the state of Mississippi.
“We know it will exciting for the students to perform on it – not only football but girls soccer, boys soccer and bands competing from all over Mississippi. We look forward to seeing the Golden Wave play and win on Renasant Field.”
The field renovation will cost $1.3 million, about $705,000 of which has already been raised.
Football coach Trent Hammond said most of the student body is abuzz with excitement about the field.
“We did an unscientific survey when we started this and our kids were almost nine out of 10 for blue – not just soccer and football players but the entire student body,” Hammond said. “This not only provides a competitive advantage in all sports, but also bleeds some excitement into the programs. It will also give us an opportunity to get more national attention.”
Hellas Construction of Austin, Texas, won the bid for the project and will begin work shortly after THS hosts a regional track meet on April 26. The project is expected to be completed in late July or early August, before the school’s first home football game against Center Hill on Aug. 22.
By JB Clark
LEE COUNTY – The Lee County Sheriff’s Office took possession of a large quantity of high-grade marijuana, uncut cocaine and crack cocaine during a traffic stop Tuesday.
It is now searching for the driver of the vehicle who fled immediately after being pulled over in the area of Green Tee Road.
Sheriff Jim Johnson said deputies were called to the area after someone reported a reckless driver trying to run them over.
The vehicle was located and the driver evaded the deputy for a short time before pulling into a driveway and fleeing on foot. A K-9 unit from the Tupelo Police Department assisted deputies in searching for the driver of the vehicle but lost his trail after a block.
Johnson said he thinks someone picked the suspect up in another vehicle. In the vehicle deputies said they found a bag with 9 ounces of marijuana, which Johnson said is some of the higher-grade marijuana he’s seen in the area, as well as one ounce of powder and crack cocaine.
He said the drugs are worth between $5,000 to $10,000 on the street.
“We’re happy to have these drugs off the street but this suspect clearly has access to high-quality drugs and we want to shut his business down,” Johnson said.
The owner of the vehicle reported it stolen a few hours after the vehicle was seized by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson said authorities are questioning the owner of the vehicle but don’t have charges on anyone and are still looking for leads.
He asked that the caller who made the initial 911 call or anyone with information contact his department at (662) 841-9040 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 773-8477.
By JB Clark
NETTLETON – What began as a fight among family members Wednesday ended with two dead along Main Street in Nettleton’s downtown and one pronounced dead at North Mississippi Medical Center after being transported by helicopter.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said four people were in a car leaving United Furniture on Main Street in Nettleton where some of them were previously engaged in an altercation.
The three men killed have been identified as two brothers and an acquaintance.
Otis Eugene Bass, 49, and Joseph Valie Bass, 44, both of Shannon, died at the scene, and Jamie Guin, 33, of Mantachie, died at North Mississippi Medical Center, according to Monroe County Coronor Alan Gurley.
Otis Bass has been identified as the shooter/suspect, according to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations.
As the car approached downtown coming from the furniture factory, one of the people in the car shot two other people in the car.
Both shooting victims were able to get out of the car, one falling to the ground immediately at the intersection of Mullen Avenue and Main Street. The second left the vehicle and fled about 100 yards, chased by Otis Bass, until falling.
“The shooter then walks up to him and fired several more rounds at that particular individual,” Johnson said. “At that time the Nettleton Police Department responded. While the officer was (speaking) with the driver of the vehicle, the shooter came up from behind the policeman and fired several rounds into the police car, damaging it.”
Johnson said that’s when the police officer engaged in a gunfight with Otis Bass, fatally shooting him.
The fourth individual in the car has been cooperating with law enforcement, according to Johnson.
The 911 dispatch office sent out the call for units to respond to an active shooter at 11:40 a.m.
Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell said they found several shell casings at the scene and each shooting victim was shot multiple times.
The silver Chevy Trailblazer in which the individuals were riding was in the middle of Main Street and halfway into the intersection. Behind it a Nettleton Police Department patrol car sat with the back window shot out.
The bodies of the two individuals pronounced dead at the scene were removed from the scene around 4 p.m. as the investigation continued downtown.
Authorities said the veteran officer is being questioned as to what happened and appears to be justified in returning gunfire.
Johnson said they do not know for sure what each of the four individual’s involvement with United Furniture was at this point in the investigation.
The case is still being investigated by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and Mississippi Highway Patrol with assistance from both the Lee County and Monroe County sheriff’s offices. The two sheriff’s offices are involved since it happened on the Lee-Monroe county line.
Anyone who witnessed the incident is encouraged to contact CrimeStoppers (1-800-773-TIPS), the Lee County Sheriff (662-841-9041) or Monroe County Sheriff (662-369-2468).
By JB Clark
MEMPHIS – No charges are being filed at this time against a Pontotoc County Sheriff’s deputy who was involved in a shooting on Beale Street in Memphis on Saturday morning.
A public information officer with the Memphis Police Department said details of the shooting were presented to the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office and a representative of the office said the shooting was ruled self-defense.
The deputy’s name has not been released, but Sheriff Leo Mask said the deputy has been placed on paid leave until the investigation into the incident is complete.
The Memphis police report said officers heard shots fired on Beale Street at 1:38 a.m. and saw the victim, a 27-year-old male, on the ground and the deputy, a 25-year-old male, running from the scene.
Officers found a Ruger .380 handgun in an ankle holster and a knife on the deputy when they took him into custody, at which time witnesses informed officers of the deputy’s position as a law enforcement officer.
The shooting victim was taken to the Regional Medical Center in critical condition and was in noncritical condition Tuesday.
“It looks like it’s going to be self-defense from what they’re telling me,” Mask said. “What they said is someone grabbed and fondled a woman. When he confronted them, someone hit him from behind and they started beating on him. When he came to they saw and got after him again so he shot one of them.”
According to Mask, three people attacked the deputy and the weapon he was carrying was a personal, off-duty weapon.
By JB Clark
ABERDEEN – A Saltillo teen pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in federal court Monday.
Alan Crisostomo, 18, entered a plea of not guilty to charges of exploiting a minor for sex, coercing a minor for sex and possession of child pornography in December.
His new guilty plea covers only the third count of possession of pornography.
The grand jury indictment accuses Crisostomo of using his cellphone to entice minors to have sex with him in August.
A trial date was set for Monday until Crisostomo decided to change his plea on one count.
He will be sentenced at a later date.