UPDATE: Man FBI says shot Tupelo police officers identified

 

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal The family of slain Tupelo Police Officer Sgt. Kevin "Gale" Stauffer look on as FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen announces authorities believe the bank robber who killed Stauffer on Monday was shot to death by Phoenix, Ariz., police attempting a bank robbery on Saturday.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
The family of slain Tupelo Police Officer Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer look on as FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen announces authorities believe the bank robber who killed Stauffer on Monday was shot to death by Phoenix, Ariz., police attempting a bank robbery on Saturday.

UPDATE: The man killed in an attempted Phoenix bank robbery and believed to have robbed a Tupelo bank and shot two Tupelo police officers has been identified by Phoenix police as Mario Edward Garnett of Oklahoma City. Garnett, 40, reportedly served four years in the military and has served prison time for threatening President Obama.

According to a federal indictment filed on Sept. 9, 2010, Garnett posted threats against Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Garnett posted comments on the White House website including “If you order a strike on Iran, Im going to come up there and blow your brains out on national TV… God has given Me a mandate.”

Daily Journal
TUPELO — Daniel McMullen, special FBI agent in charge for Mississippi, confirmed at a Sunday morning press conference that law enforcement believes the man killed in an attempted bank robbery in Phoenix, Ariz., Saturday is the same man who killed Sgt. Gale Stauffer and critically wounded Patrol Officer Joseph Maher in Tupelo on Monday.

The man’s identity was not immediately revealed. But he has also been linked with an attempted bank robbery and the robbery of a customer at the bank’s lobby ATM in Atlanta several hours before the Monday robbery in Tupelo at the BancorpSouth branch on South Gloster.

The robber’s getaway stalled after traffic stopped along South Gloster Street as a train crossed. Stauffer and Maher thought the suspected robber drove the SUV they approached; however, located in the car behind the SUV, the gunman exited his vehicle and shot the officers during an ambush. He then returned to his car and drove on the edge of the Atlanta Bread property past traffic, evading police by turning on nearby Carnation Street.

McMullen said that while they believe the man killed in Phoenix was responsible for the Tupelo bank robbery and shootings, “the investigation is not over” and some leads must still be pursued. Nevertheless, he added that he hoped the identification of the suspect who shot the two Tupelo police officers “will bring (their families) a measure of comfort and peace.”

Beth Stauffer, widow of Sgt. Stauffer, appeared with family members at the press conference at the BancorpSouth Arena and said the healing process could now begin. She thanked the community for its support and law enforcement for its resolution of the case. “We know that we have not been through this alone,” she said.

McMullen said a key piece of information was cell phone records that put the man in Atlanta, Tupelo and Phoenix at the time of each of the robberies. He also said the man in each instance wore similar clothing, used the same objects to prop open the banks’ doors when he entered, made the same statements to bank employees and had a similar “overall modus operandi.”

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton spoke at the press conference and expressed his pride in the way the city rallied and said'”the Tupelo Spirit” has shone through the events of the past week and the community’s response.

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TUPELO – An armed gunman who died Saturday during an attempted robbery in Phoenix, Ariz., is likely same suspect accused of shooting two Tupelo police officers Monday, killing one and critically injuring the second, after robbing a bank.

FBI investigators linked the Tupelo case to another bank robbery in Atlanta that occurred the same day. The suspect in all three instances wore a mask and is consistent with the height description provided by the FBI.

An email sent to media from the FBI’s Jackson office sent late Saturday announced a 10 a.m. Sunday news conference at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo to discuss a”significant development related to this investigation.”

Tupelo police Sgt. Gale Stauffer’s funeral was Friday, the same day hospitalized patrol officer Joseph Maher transferred from intensive care to a private room. A gunman shot both officers on South Gloster Street after an armed robbery at the BancorpSouth branch in Gloster Creek Village.

The robber in Phoenix died after exchanging shots with a police detective outside the bank.

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A map showing the most direct route from Atlanta to Tupelo to Phoenix through Interstate 20 to Highway 78 to Interstate 40.

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Daily Journal reporter Robbie Ward contributed to this story.