Tippah deputy slain; Pontotoc man charged

By Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel

RIPLEY – A Pontotoc man faces capital murder charges in the Friday morning slaying of a Tippah County sheriff’s deputy.
Franklin L. Fitzpatrick, 26, was charged after deputy Dewayne Crenshaw, 62, was fatally shot before dawn while making an arrest. Fitzpatrick was being held at a facility outside Tippah County, and Sheriff Karl Gaillard said other charges might be filed in the case.
Jon Kalahar, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is handling the investigation.
According to Kalahar, Crenshaw was the second officer on the scene of a disturbance at a home on County Road 500 about 4 a.m. Friday. He said the suspect was being unruly, so officers tried to subdue him with a Taser. Crenshaw was shot during the confrontation.
It is unclear how the suspect got the gun, said Kalahar.
Crenshaw was a retired U.S. Army master sergeant who earned several Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in Vietnam. He had worked for the sheriff’s department for several years as a deputy and jailer. His son, Adam, works for the Sheriff’s Department as a jailer.
“Mr. Crenshaw was not only an employee,” said Gaillard, “but a good friend and a good officer. It was a real pleasure to have worked with him. He was a good man, and he’ll be missed greatly.
“He was a small man with a big heart. He was gritty – he didn’t back down from much of anything.”
Chief Deputy Roy Shappley had worked with Crenshaw since the deputy was hired as a jailer under former Sheriff James Page. He became a full-time deputy during the administration of former Sheriff Brandon Vance.
“You couldn’t find a better fellow,” Shappley said Friday. “He was a good man, a good officer, and a good all-around guy.”
Jail Administrator Bill Middleton recalled Crenshaw as “one of the kindest, most gentle men I ever worked with. He was small, but large in stature. He was firm, though, and he earned the respect of everybody who knew him.
“He had a following among the inmates, because he always gave them the benefit of the doubt. As a result, all the inmates that were here liked him. If a new inmate came in and tried to give him a problem, we never had to worry about it, because the other inmates would take care of it.”
The Police Benevolent Association will establish the Deputy Dewayne Crenshaw Memorial Fund at Regions Bank. All contributions are tax-deductible, and all proceeds will go to the family, Ripley Police Chief Scott White said Friday morning.
The courthouse and sheriff’s department flags will fly at half-staff in Crenshaw’s honor, county officials said Friday morning. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at Ripley Funeral Home.
Crenshaw is believed to be the first law enforcement officer in more than 60 years to die in line of duty in Tippah County.
District 3 Constable Rufus Ola Crum was shot to death south of Ripley on July 5, 1947.

- Other Northeast Mississippi officers killed while on duty.
• 2009 – Mississippi Highway Patrolman Steve Hood died during a high-speed chase.
• 2006 – University of Mississippi Police Officer Robert Michael Langley died when he was dragged by a suspect’s vehicle during a traffic stop.
• 2001 – Lee County Sheriff Harold Ray Presley was killed when he was shot by a suspect.
• 1999 – Prentiss County Deputy Michael Dale Hisaw was shot to death.
• 1998 – Casey Ryan Harmon, detention officer at the Lee County Detention Center, was shot to death by a juvenile at the center.
• 1997 – Shannon Police Chief Bobby Spencer was shot to death while entering Town Hall.
• 1989 – Verona Police Chief Billy Watson was shot to death.