Year in review: Police shooting stuns community

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Resident line the route to Tupelo Memorial Gardens with flags honoring Sgt. Kevin "Gale" Stauffer on Friday.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Resident line the route to Tupelo Memorial Gardens with flags honoring Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer on Friday.

STAUFFER

STAUFFER

By JB Clark

Daily Journal

TUPELO – A bank robbery turned shooting took the life of Tupelo Police Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer, injured Officer Joseph Maher and shocked the city the day before Christmas Eve.

The two officers were responding to a bank robbery at the 430 S. Gloster St. BancorpSouth branch, pursuing a fleeing vehicle into northbound traffic in the area of South Gloster and Carnation streets. When a Crosstown train stopped the bank robbers, motorists and police alike, gunshots began to pop off.

A eyewitness said he saw officers get out of their car and command the fleeing suspects to get back in their vehicle. He said one officer exited his vehicle with an assault rifle, the other with a handgun – and then gunshots filled the air.

MAHER

MAHER

A former law enforcement officer from Pontotoc ran to one of the squad cars to radio for an ambulance and backup. A nearby nurse was quick to tend to the wounds of the officers.

Law enforcement officers from the FBI, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, Lee County Sheriff Office, Tupelo Police Department and Mississippi Highway Patrol worked day and night through the holidays pursuing leads. During the investigation police discovered what appeared to be the same gunman attempting to rob an Atlanta bank.

Christmas night hundreds of people gathered at Fairpark for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Stauffer and in support of Maher.

Maher was still hospitalized as of Saturday, but was recently moved out of the Intensive Care Unit and family had said his condition was improving to the point he walked with help on Friday.

jb.clark@journalinc.com

  • Richard Griswold

    This re-cap article is confusing to me in several respects! First, it still implies that there were 2 bank robbers! Has that issue been clarified ? Also, initial reports indicated that the officers were warning people to stay in there cars and that the robber came up behind and shot them “point blank” Is this known to be true or not? This recap article seems to be poorly written. If it is still not clear what happened, then that should be stated! As a long term Tupelo resident, I feel this should be clarified for us, and especially the family….

    Richard Griswold, M.D.

    • Lydia

      You’re right — it is poorly written.

      I can’t answer your question about one bank robber or two, but I can explain why the robber was able to shoot both officers.

      When the original call went out, officers were looking for a white SUV. These two brave officers came upon the SUV stuck in Crosstown traffic and approached it. The actual bank robber was in a grey sedan, also stuck in traffic, and when the robber got out of his car, the officers ordered him to get back in because they believed he was just another citizen and were concerned for his safety. The officers were focused on the white SUV, and the robber was able to ambush them because of it.

      I have heard multiple stories about the involvement of the white SUV, including one version which claims that the white SUV belonged to someone who came to the bank to transact normal business and walked in on the robbery. The robber told the customer to get out and he or she fled and drove away frantically, triggering the assumption that the white SUV was a getaway vehicle.

      Please understand that this is only one of many stories circulating about the white SUV. However, the FBI confirmed in today’s press conference that the officers were focused on the SUV rather than the grey sedan, which is what allowed the robber to ambush them.

      There are many unanswered questions at this point, but I think we have to be patient. Although the FBI believes the Phoenix robber to be the same person, the investigation is still ongoing. There’s a lot left to confirm.

      In the meantime, it’s the families that matter most. Please pray for them and for the continued improvement of Officer Maher.