A man killed by police on the Popp’s Ferry Bridge had shot out a window in a vehicle with children and repeatedly refused police orders to drop his weapon, Police Chief John Miller said Wednesday.
Miller released details of the March 10 fatal shooting after a Harrison County grand jury ruled the officers’ actions were justifiable because of the facts and the circumstances.
Wesley Alan Sheppard, 37, of Biloxi died on the bridge.
He was hit by two bullets from about 50 yards as three officers fired simultaneously, Miller said.
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Investigators learned the weapon was a BB rifle, though it looked like a long gun to people who called police and to the responding officers, he said.
“It was a tragedy and something nobody would want to happen,” Miller said. “We felt strongly that everything done was within policy and the grand jury found no fault in anything that was done.”
Miller said the officers have a combined experience of 30 years.
He identified them as Sgt. Will Hipple and patrol officers Lance Miller and Matthew Boone. Lance Miller is not related to the police chief.
Hipple, also a K-9 officer, has 12 years’ experience. Miller has nine years on patrol. Boone has a total of nine years on patrol —two with Biloxi and seven years before that with the Gulfport Police Department.
“These are experienced officers and it has been extremely hard on them,” Chief Miller said.
Chief tells what happened
Police went to the bridge about 8:30 p.m. March 10 in response to several calls of a man with a rifle who was firing shots. The calls included one from a driver with children on board, who reported their car’s rear window had been shot out.
Sheppard was on foot at the bottom of the north side of the bridge, the chief said. The officers positioned themselves just past the draw.
“Demands were made that he lay the rifle down and that he drop the rifle,” Miller said. “He was refusing and he pointed it at the officers. It happened more than once. The officers showed great restraint. Then they all three fired simultaneously.”
An autopsy was performed by the state Medical Examiner’s Office.
MBI handled investigation
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation was called in for an independent probe, a standard police procedure. The Gulfport Police Department’s crime-scene unit gathered the evidence.
MBI, which operates under the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, does not give results of its officer-involved shootings to the media. Results of an investigation are turned over to the District Attorney’s Office, which typically presents the case to a grand jury.
A Harrison County grand jury cleared the officers of wrongdoing in a partial report filed Monday. The DA’s Office released a partial report Wednesday.
The three-paragraph document includes only one paragraph with any details.
It says, “After full and deliberate consideration of all the facts and circumstances leading up to the March 10, 2016, shooting of Wesley Alan Sheppard, and the circumstances as they existed at the time of the shooting, the Grand Jury finds no criminal conduct on behalf of the officers involved from the Biloxi Police Department and further finds their actions were appropriate.”