By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
SHANNON – Sheriff’s deputies swarmed a rural Lee County home Friday after a man torched its backyard, fought the occupants and then yelled profanities over the police radio of a fire truck he’d commandeered.
James Kevin Crawford, 42, was arrested shortly after 3 p.m. and will be charged with domestic violence, illegally using a police radio and possibly grand larceny if the Lee County Sheriff’s Department determines he tried to steal the fire truck, said Chief Deputy John Hall.
“We think he was trying to drive the truck, but the water pump was on,” Hall said, explaining that the pump deactivates the driving mechanism. “He couldn’t figure it out.”
Authorities had to use a Taser on Crawford to remove him from the truck.
The incident began about a half-hour earlier when Crawford, whom family members described as homeless and intoxicated, started a fire in the wooded area behind his mother’s County Road 54 home.
His sister, Joan Crawford, arrived at the house shortly thereafter and saw the blaze. She awoke her mother and advised her to call 911, Joan Crawford said. The family did, then, call emergency dispatchers to request a fire truck.
But James Crawford became enraged when firefighters arrived, saying he wanted to extinguish the flames on his own, his sister told the Daily Journal. He yelled at his mother and then began punching his 41-year-old brother, Broderick Crawford.
The fight quickly turned violent. A knife appeared. A chair got smashed. A vase shattered. Blood spattered across the garage’s concrete floor.
“He’s burnt the field before,” Joan Crawford said. “But he took it too far this time.”
Other family members intervened, trying to separate the brothers. Outnumbered, James Crawford headed back toward the woods and the fire he’d set. Joan Crawford said they worried he might have stashed a gun in the woods and was going to get it. They called 911 from the house.
But James Crawford wasn’t going for a gun; he was headed to the South Lee County Fire Department truck to make his own plea for help. He entered the vacant engine, took the police radio, and began a profanity-laced diatribe in which he demanded police backup because people were trying to kill him.
It was the first time either Hall or Lee County Chief Investigator Lt. Scotty Reedy can recall a civilian commandeering a police radio under those circumstances. Hall said he initially thought an officer had been shot.
“It always makes you feel sick to your stomach when you hear something like that,” he said.
About one dozen deputies arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and took control of the situation. They transported James Crawford to the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
An ambulance took Broderick Crawford to North Mississippi Medical Center with unknown injuries.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze, which didn’t spread beyond the Crawford property.