Fulton fire chief, brother arrested

FULTON – Fire Chief Freddy Brown has been accused of hampering an investigation into the beating death of a Fulton man.
Brown, 47, of 200 Brown Road, and his brother, Gerald Brown, 54, of 245 Brown Road, were arrested Tuesday and charged with first-degree hindering the prosecution.
If convicted, each man faces a maximum of five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
Both Browns signed waivers of initial appearance and were released from jail on $5,000 bonds. Their case will come before the next Itawamba County grand jury.
Attempts to contact the men for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday. According to WTVA, the fire chief issued a statement denying the charges.
According to Sheriff’s Department Lt. Chris Umfress, the Itawamba County criminal investigator, the Browns allegedly hid information pertaining to the June 10 beating of Johnny Neil Johnson.
Johnson, 47, of 1097 Lake Drive, died last Wednesday night while hospitalized at the North Mississippi Medical Center. Johnson was admitted to the hospital on June 10 after sustaining multiple injuries during a fight at a party located on 245 Brown Road.
Umfress said the brothers lied about the location of the attack, delaying the arrest of Chris Bird, who has been charged with the beating.
Bird, 30, of Topeka, Kan., is charged with manslaughter. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen Bird assaulting Johnson during a fight among several individuals.
Bird was arrested on June 12 and charged with aggravated assault. His charge was upgraded to manslaughter following the victim’s death. Although Bird’s bond was originally set at $500,000, it was increased Tuesday to $1 million in light of the more serious charge. He currently is being held in the Itawamba County Jail.
“They wanted to distance themselves from the attack, so they allegedly lied about what they knew,” Umfress said.
Umfress said the attack on Johnson occurred at Gerald Brown’s house, but the brothers reported the victim had been dropped off at the residence already beaten.
The felony charge, Umfress explained, is applied to those accused of giving criminal assistance to a person who has committed a felony, knowing or believing that such person has engaged in conduct constituting a felony.
The charge can involve harboring or concealing a suspect, providing a suspect with transportation or money, or the preventing by act of deception the apprehension of a suspect.
Freddy Brown, who has served as Fulton’s fire chief since September 2000 and has been a member of the Fulton Fire Department since March 1993, retains his position.
“We want to know a little bit more about the investigation before making a decision,” said Mayor Paul Walker.
The mayor said the city’s Board of Aldermen will have to decide whether or not Brown will face suspension or termination.
Umfress said law enforcement doesn’t anticipate any further arrests in the case.

Contact Adam Armour at (662) 862-3141 or adam.armour@itawamba360.com.

Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times