Man found not guilty said he shot into the air, not at people

Robert Echols
Robert Echols

Robert Echols is a free man since a Harrison County jury found him not guilty of firing shots at five people at a Gulfport gas station in 2014.

Echols, 58, was at a Shell station next to Home Depot, and he did fire shots, but they were warning shots because he thought he was in danger, attorney Phil Wittmann said Monday.

A jury deliberated about 6 1/2 hours Thursday and found Echols not guilty on five counts of aggravated assault, Wittmann said.

Gulfport police had arrested Echols on July 4, 2014.

“My client steadfastly said that he fired warning shots in the air because he thought a car was going to back up and hit him,” Wittmann said.

Echols had been involved in a dispute with one of the passengers in the other car and had accused the passenger of stealing his car.

“He just happened to be at the gas station the same time the others were there,” Wittman said.

Echols did not testify, but a passenger did, and said the shots were fired in the air, he said.

“My client had walked up to the car and the driver put it in reverse,” Wittman said. “He thought the driver was coming at him to kill him, so he fired four shots in the air. Prosecutors tried to claim he fired at the car, but the jury believed him.”

Echols had been in jail the past eight months.

“After the verdict, Judge Lisa Dodson told him he’s a free man,” Wittman said. “My client is very relieved because he knew he didn’t shoot at anybody.”

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews