Hundreds gathered at Tupelo City Hall in the deepening shadows of sunset and dusk Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil honoring the memory of slain Police Sgt. Gale Stauffer and injured officer Joseph Maher, both shot Monday afternoon in pursuit of robbers who made away with an unannounced sum from a BancorpSouth Bank branch in the parking lot of Gloster Creek Village.
The candlelight vigil revealed the depth of affection and respect the city and larger region has for men and women in uniform and the deep sadness felt by so many in the face of the violent and cowardly bank robbery that claimed Stauffer’s life and resulted in critical wounds to Maher, who is recovering at North Mississippi Medical Center.
A reward offered by BancorpSouth, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has charge of the investigation, several other banks, institutions and businesses should help in finding, identifying, trying and ultimately convicting those responsible for the robbery and shootings.
In addition, the Community Development Foundation has started separate funds for the families of the two officers, $5,000 each. Donations can be made to either or both of those funds at any BancorpSouth Bank branch. BancorpSouth will match donations up to $10,000.
Beyond the public sadness and outrage involving the cold-blooded shootings is the grief and absence felt so painfully by the families of the two officers, their other kin, and their friends.
The FBI and the Tupelo Police Department want the public’s help and cooperation in apprehending the criminals. Any information should be given directly to those agencies.
Protecting the public is a principal responsibility of government, and that work is aided when residents forthrightly cooperate.
Bank robbery and a deadly assault on a police officer both are federal crimes, which means the full resources of the government’s investigative and law enforcement divisions has been brought to bear in the Tupelo case.
In summary, capital offenses include first- degree murder (premeditated), murder with special circumstances (such as intentional, multiple, involved with another crime, with guns, of a police officer, or a repeat offense), and rape with additional bodily harm, and the federal crime of treason, and a long list of other situations.
This crime will not stand. The perpetrators will be caught. It is a public responsibility to help law enforcement in that task.