Jackson County

It’s time to ‘squash’ the violence, Coast officials say. ‘This is not just a Moss Point problem.’

Mayor Mario King is calling on residents to “squash” the violence in the city in the aftermath of a deadly home invasion and armed robbery that left one dead and another injured.

The latest shooting occurred when six armed men forced their way into a home during a Super Bowl party to rob the residents and gunfire erupted.

“Our community is better than this,” King said Tuesday. “We are resilient. Our children are in trouble. Our community is hurting.

“The torturous acts of violence need to end.”

King tried not to weep when he mentioned how some of these people who have fallen victim to these “senseless” crimes have been friends of his, friends who now have to be buried.

“I am with you,” he said. “I am concerned. I am in pain and I am with you in confusion. Being mayor does not change who I am. I have the same passion and love for my community as you do.”

King took a moment to remind residents of the days not that long ago when he, as a child, was allowed to play outside without worry of being shot or robbed or injured.

King said he’s preparing to hire a police chief as soon as possible. Former Chief Calvin Hutchins resigned, the latest in a string of police chiefs to step down after briefly serving the city over the years.

‘We know we have a gang problem’

At Tuesday’s press conference, Sheriff Mike Ezell, Pascagoula Mayor Dane Maxwell and District Attorney Tony Lawrence along with other city leaders and school board members voiced their push to get people to start taking action against the criminals on the streets by cooperating with authorities to solve the senseless crimes.

While the city is without a police chief, King said he is diligently working with others, including investigators with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the Pascagoula Police Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force to solve the crimes and end the violence that is plaguing the city.

“Stand with me as I work hard to rejuvenate our community,” he said, sobbing as he noted that one family was preparing for a funeral today for one of the crime victims.

“Enough is enough,” King said. “Our kids cannot wait. This is our community. This is our city and it’s time for us to put our arms around each other and love one another. Together we are better, we are Moss Point.”

Lawrence assured residents that his office, in conjunction with law enforcement investigators, will get these criminals off the streets.

“This is not just a Moss Point problem,” Lawrence said. “This is a problem on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We know we have a gang problem. We know we have a drug problem,” and it’s time for citizens to act.

Ezell echoed the sentiment, also encouraging residents to start speaking up to law enforcement officials to help them identify and arrest those terrorizing communities, such as Moss Point.

“Now is not the time to say I am not going to talk to the police,” Ezell added.

Residents speak out

Some residents urged others to start taking action or face the consequences because they, too, through their silence will end up falling victim to the thugs determined to bring crime to the city.

The shootings and other crimes, resident Lorretta Jennings said, “would indicate we have a lack of law here.”

“We have laws that we have to follow and doing this kind of activity (shootings) says you are really not part of society. We have laws to follow and to do this kind of activity says you are really not a part of our city.

“We need to learn to respect each other. We want to love our neighbors and respect them but all of this that’s happening is a 360 from that.”

Another resident, Jerry Hopkins said, said she simply wants her city back.

“ I want to be able to enjoy this beautiful city without fear of any type of negative influence,” she said Tuesday. “I don't like that I’m impacted by negative news and negative situations. I think it's time for the community to heal this beautiful city. This is a beautiful city and the consequences of a few has hugely impacted the lives ot the many. We know it happens in other communities. But I have a big problem with it here because I live in this community.”

Another resident, David Wright, took the spotlight when he turned to fellow residents and told them, “If you see something, say something. They don’t owe you nothing. They don’t scare me. But if you don’t say something, that means they gotcha, they gotcha, and they coming I’m telling you.”

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45