By JB Clark
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.
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.