Thursday, March 2, 2005

Four arrested in Red Banks shooting

Staff Writer

Sheriff Kenny Dickerson released the names of four individuals who have been charged in a Red Banks shooting incident that killed a Texaco station clerk February 20.

Michael Buffington (Wells), 29, of 891 Old Oxford Road, has been charged with the murder of Hefadhallahs (a.k.a. Tony) Almuntaser, Dickerson said. Buffington remains in jail on $250,000 bond.

Three others were charged with accessory after the fact of murder, according to Dickerson.

Maurice Jenkins, 20, of 27 Fox Cove in Byhalia, Pierre Jenkins, 25, of 134 Parker Road in Byhalia, and James Lavell Norton, 22, of 222 Dowdy Road in Lamar, were charged with accessory after the fact to murder and the three bonded out at $2,000 each, the sheriff said.

No motive for the murder has been uncovered by investigators, Dickerson said.

“It appears from the facts we’ve gathered thus far, that Maurice Jenkins and ‘Tony’ Almuntaser, the victim, had gotten into a physical altercation inside the store,” Dickerson said. “We have reason to believe that Almuntaser fired one or more shots in the store, none of which struck Maurice Jenkins. Maurice is believed to have run up the hill outside the store following that.”

Investigators believe that Almuntaser and Buffington may have then had some type of verbal altercation in front of the store that ended with Buffington firing shots that struck the victim as he attempted to go back inside the station.

Officers believe Almuntaser was struck once in the side and once in the back area, but an autopsy report is not yet available.

“There is no physical evidence that Almuntaser ever shot at Buffington at the store front,” Dickerson said.

Investigators believe that Buffington’s car had broken down a close distance from the store prior to the incident unfolding.

“We have reason to believe after Buffington shot the victim, that he and Lavell Norton fled the scene in Norton’s car and they later picked up Maurice Jenkins,” Dickerson said. “And we have reason to believe that following their flight from the store, Buffington threw the murder weapon out of the car as they drove to a location on Highway 311. We have reason to believe the weapon is a 357 magnum silver-plated pistol with a black handle.”

Dickerson said investigations have not revealed that Buffington and Almuntaser had any prior disputes with each other. Officers are still searching for the weapon thought to be used in the shooting, he said.

Dickerson praised officers Kelly McMillen, Randy Harper, David Cook and LaDarryl Odum and an assisting Highway Patrol officer for many hours spent in gathering of the facts related to this investigation.

He called the incident “a tragedy.”

Dickerson also released the names of three suspects arrested and charged for drug-related offenses on February 17, following a three-month undercover investigation by officers with the sheriff’s office, the Third Judicial District Narcotics Enforcement Team and Mississippi Department of Corrections.

One pound of marijuana, one ounce of crack cocaine, about $1,200 in currency and a 2005 model Chrysler automobile were seized during the arrests, he said.

Marcus Jefferson, 24, of the Red Banks area, Steven Moore, 29, of the Cayce area and

Lamon Odum, 27, of the Cayce area, were arrested and charged with the sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy to sell a controlled substance, Dickerson said.

All three suspects made $25,000 bond and have been released from jail, Dickerson said.

Drug-related crimes account for 80 percent of crimes committed in Marshall County, the state and the nation, Dickerson said. He called for continued public awareness and reporting of suspicious looking activities in neighborhoods to either the sheriff’s office (662-252-1311) or to 911 dispatch. All reports of suspicious activity will be investigated, he said, and informants and all information shared with authorities will be kept confidential.

Dickerson said burglary of homes has been on the rise in the county.

“It seems lately, we’re having more than our share of rural residential house burglaries,” he said. “We are asking any suspicious looking activity be reported immediately to 911 or our office.

“With the 12,000 to 13,000 houses in this county, we do not have the patrol power to watch them all. We also realize everyone cannot afford burglar alarm systems, but people who can, need to be advised to install them due to criminal activity in this county.”

Dickerson expressed gratitude to those who report suspected criminal activity.

“Without their help, we would not be successful in doing our job,” he said. “We are extremely thankful for the public cooperation we get and it certainly helps our efforts to curtail these crimes.”

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