Grand jury indicts deputy in shooting at narcotics task force office

mbbaker@sunherald.comNovember 16, 2012 

PASCAGOULA -- A Jackson County grand jury has indicted the former commander of the Narcotics Task Force in a July shooting at the task force's Pascagoula office.

Sgt. Jackie Trussell, indicted on a misdemeanor charge of simple assault, turned himself in Friday at the Sheriff's Department. He was released on a $1,000 bail, according to a press release from Sheriff Mike Byrd. In addition, the release said, Trussell was relieved of his duties without pay in accordance with the Sheriff's Department's standard operating procedures.

Byrd did not disclose information about the shooting when it occurred.

Once the incident became public and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation concluded its probe into the shooting, Byrd issued several statements about the incident.

"I have said from the beginning that this was an accident," Byrd said in one statement, later adding, "I have been told by an MBI investigator that there was no criminal wrongdoing whatsoever. I look forward to seeing the grand jury findings and putting this entire matter behind us."

The grand jury ruled to indict Trussell on the misdemeanor charge, which carries a sentence of up to a $500 fine and/or up to six months in jail.

In investigative reports about the shooting obtained by the Sun Herald, Trussell wrote about the July 31 shooting.

He wrote he "drew my pistol and shot a round in the floor" at the feet of another agent, Deputy Chad Powell, who "poked" at him with a syringe at the task force's Pascagoula office.

In a second, supplemental report, written in September, when the independent investigation was started, Trussell described how task force members treated Powell's wound in the task force office, first administering lidocaine and then stitching a cut on his left shin Trussell said resulted from concrete fragments when the bullet struck the floor.

Trussell wrote the Sept. 6 supplemental report about the same time Moss Point Police Chief Keith Davis learned of the shooting from independent sources and called for an investigation, which MBI handled at Byrd's request.

In the documents, Trussell said Powell poked a syringe at him several times.

"I am deathly afraid of needles and I told Agent Powell don't get around me with the needle," Trussell wrote. "Agent Powell poked at me the second time and I told him that I would hurt him if he poked at me again with the needle. The third time he poked at me with the needle, he was close to me and the left side of my body got cold and numb and I drew my pistol and shot a round in the floor by his feet and I told him to get the (expletive) needle away from me."

The report said Powell told Trussell he was OK and did not require professional medical treatment. Trussell said he and another deputy assigned to the task force at the time, Sgt. Shawn Kimmerly, treated the wound.

Right after the shooting, Trussell wrote he called Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Agent Todd McGehee, who at the time was assigned to work at the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. Trussell said he asked McGehee to bring a first aid kit from his truck to the task force office. But when McGehee got there, he learned a suture kit was needed.

Trussell said he picked up the syringe Powell had thrown against a conference room wall after he was injured and threw it in the "hazardous materials sharps bin."

No evidence was collected, the report said.

Shortly after the police chiefs in Moss Point, Pascagoula and Gautier learned of the shooting, they pulled their officers from the county narcotics task force. They have since severed ties with the group.

Gautier Police Chief Dante Elbin said he has no regrets about his decision in light of the shooting.

"We didn't know anything about the shooting for at least a month," he said. "I felt like we (the police chiefs) were being kept out of the loop. We pulled our agent from the task force to protect the integrity of our agent and to protect the integrity of our department.

"The shooting at the task force office was disappointing. As law enforcement officers, we are held to a higher standard. The laws should apply to us as well as anybody else in the community. We should all be held accountable for out actions."

"It's a sad day to have a grand jury indict a law enforcement officer," Moss Point's Davis said Friday. "I do respect the grand jury's decision. However, the Moss Point Police Department is committed and moving forward with the creation of the new Metropolitan Enforcement Team, where we can provide aggressive narcotics enforcement for the citizens of Moss Point, Gautier and Pascagoula."

John McKay, president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, said: "I think the whole issue has been a black eye for Jackson County. Hopefully, we can get past it and get things corrected so it will never happen again."

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