Deputy shot; suspect takes own life
A Marshall County deputy is undergoing surgery for several gunshot wounds to his extremities, according to sheriff Kenny Dickerson.
The shooting suspect died Friday night of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, after a standoff that lasted almost three hours, he said.
Multiple law enforcement agencies gathered at the scene to assist in the incident and stand by Sheriff Dickerson in this tragedy that unfolded in the Hunters Run Drive area of Marshall County.
Dickerson said officer Daniel Tatum, with the force for five years (first on patrol and for the last couple of years serving in the narcotics division), pulled over a Honda car April 12 around 6 p.m. on Mt. Zion Road in the northwestern area of Marshall County.
He asked for the driver to produce his driver’s license and proof of insurance. The driver could not produce the identifying information and began cursing Tatum, he said. Then the driver sped off with two passengers, a male and a female, in the car.
Tatum took pursuit of the vehicle in a high-speed chase. The driver turned the Honda onto Lee Creek Road near the Cayce Fire Department and then turned off on Hunters Run Drive, a dead-end road off Lee Creek Road.
The driver turned into a driveway in the 100 block of Hunters Run Drive and drove the Honda to the back of a residence that belonged to his mother and stepfather. He parked the vehicle near the back steps, jumped out and fled into the residence through the back door, the sheriff said.
Officer Tatum, of the Potts Camp area and father of two, was just steps behind the driver and pursued him to the back door of the residence.
The passengers fled the car and hid in an area near the back of the house. They were later taken into custody for questioning.
Upon opening the back door, Officer Tatum faced rapid gunfire, according to Dickerson. Projectiles struck his extremities several times, injuring his left leg, left arm and shoulder area, Dickerson said.
Tatum, who was unable to pull out his firearm in self-defense, crawled out of the house onto the back porch, ending up on a ramp on the opposite side of the porch from the steps.
The driver of the Honda stood over Tatum and fired more rounds into the chest area of officer Tatum as he lay helpless on the porch ramp, the sheriff said. Fortunately, Tatum was wearing his bullet-proof vest, or he would not have survived, he said.
“As the deputy lay unconscious on the porch, the suspect and at least one other adult shouted threats to officers who had taken cover at the scene,” Dickerson said. “He was then carrying a black rifle of unknown caliber.”
A visual search by Dickerson and other officers revealed, on the back porch in plain view, a semi-automatic pistol that matched the description of a handgun that the shooter had with him in the Honda during the pursuit.
Dickerson said he believes that pistol was likely the one used in the assault upon officer Tatum.
Two officers, also in great danger, the sheriff said, went to where Tatum lay helpless and dragged him to a position of safety. He was later transported by ambulance to a nearby landing zone and airlifted to the Regional One Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn.
Meanwhile, the shooting suspect retreated back inside the house and closed the door. A two-and-a-half to three-hour standoff ensued with Dickerson and the suspect’s mother pleading with the suspect to come out of the house and surrender.
Dickerson said he was using the bull horn and a telephone in an attempt to communicate with the suspect, but the suspect’s words were garbled.
Dickerson said while driving to the residence, he had talked with the suspect’s mother who indicated he would surrender to the sheriff peacefully.
The two communicated with the suspect inside from the corner of the back porch for about five minutes, pleading with him to surrender.
Instead, the suspect shouted out profanity that was not clearly understandable, the sheriff said.
Dickerson said the suspect, whom he had known since childhood, did not seem to be the same person that evening that he had known as a child.
“My gut instinct then was that he most likely did not have surrendering peacefully on his mind,” Dickerson said.
The sheriff and the mother left the yard and stood in the drive area on Hunters Run Drive where about 100 other law enforcement officers were gathered, officers from the city, county, state and federal agencies.
It was about 7 p.m.
“We continued during the next three hours to communicate by loudspeakers and telephone in an effort to get him to surrender,” Dickerson said.
The suspect’s telephone battery went dead.
Several times the suspect would come out on the small wooden front porch in what appeared to be gym-style shorts. He was shirtless and barefoot.
He placed some object that appeared to be a handgun in the waistband of his shorts from time to time.
Dickerson, Sheriff Bill Roscoe from DeSoto County and Sheriff Arnie Mc-Mullen from Benton County conferred with a tactical team from DeSoto County and an officer with the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
“Our collective opinion was that our only alternative to safely take him into custody was to gas the house after negotiations were failing,” Dickerson said.
The suspect came to the front door for fresh air and officers continued to urge him to step off the porch with hands visible and surrender.
Before negotiations failed, he asked Dickerson to verify his presence. He would surrender to Sheriff Dickerson who was about 90 feet away holding a flashlight marking the area where he wanted the suspect to go.
“He finally made two or three steps from the front porch with a weapon in his hand, with officers urging him to drop the weapon and show his hands,” the sheriff said.
In several minutes the suspect dropped to his knees with the weapon in his right hand and spoke unintelligibly as if under the influence of alcohol or possibly drugs or both, Dickerson said.
Then the suspect placed the gun to his head, fired the weapon, and collapsed on the ground face up, he said.
The large caliber pistol was moved away from the suspect’s body and officers determined that the suspect, Randy Vaught, 33, of the Taska Road area, was unresponsive.
Officers with the MHP collected evidence from the scene and coroner James Richard Anderson arrived and pronounced Vaught dead and took possession of his body, which was sent for autopsy.
In a search of the residence, Dickerson said a suicide note was found that was written by Vaught and directed to his mother. In the note, he was apologetic of his plans to kill himself, the sheriff said.
Dickerson said he has been involved in a number of similar incidents in his many years of law enforcement.
“No two situations are the same,” he said. “but we are bound by case law and state and federal law when it comes to the safety of others when we handle situations of this nature. Death under any circumstances is tragic. We went beyond the extra mile in our attempt to end this situation in a peaceful manner.
“Vaught had many opportunities to surrender and we were telling him there were other ways out and he chose not to take them,” Dickerson said.
An autopsy report received by the sheriff and coroner earlier this week from Jackson confirms the suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Dickerson said.
He said Officer Tatum followed the law step-by-step.
“I take complete responsibility and stand by Officer Tatum and all the other officers who came to assist us,” the sheriff said. “We know this case was overwhelmingly handled in a manner dictated by state, local and federal law.”
The sheriff added that Vaught was out on bond from a previous charge of statutory rape in 2018 in Marshall County. And he served three years of a 10-year sentence, seven years suspended, for aggravated assault in Marshall County.
The two passengers in the vehicle with Vaught prior to, during the pursuit, and at the end of the pursuit were interviewed Saturday.
One of the occupants said they witnessed the suspect smoking crystal methamphetamine with a glass pipe at a residence shortly before the pursuit began. The same passenger said the suspect had an amount of marijuana in the Honda during the time of the pursuit.
“We have no reason to believe the occupants in the car encouraged Vaught to flee, nor do we believe they had any part in the shooting of officer Tatum,” Dickerson said.
“We were told by one of the occupants the suspect was blowing his horn repeatedly near his mother’s house and he asked her to have a four-wheeler in the backyard. We saw no evidence his mother ever received this communication.”
The two were released Saturday afternoon.
Deputy Tatum said from his hospital bed that he played dead while the suspect shot at him on the porch.
“That probably saved his life,” Dickerson said.
One of the suspect’s weapons was emptied shooting at the officer. Vaught used a large caliber weapon to take his own life, the sheriff said.
“Tatum is a fine young officer who did outstanding work,” Dickerson said. “He has a good family and a good wife and two children and I am proud of his efforts in working to keep drug activity down.”
Tatum underwent surgery on his leg on Sunday and again on Monday and was scheduled for a third surgery on his arm and shoulder Tuesday.
Sheriff Dickerson thanks all local, state and federal law enforcement personnel who assisted on the scene in a very expedient manner.
“It took a cooperative effort from everyone on the scene in a very dangerous situation,” Dickerson said.