Why a Gulfport shooting death ruled self-defense in 2016 was reopened as a murder case

A 43-year-old Gulfport man has turned himself in on a first-degree murder charge after indictment on a fatal shooting from 2016.

The killing of 37-year-old Phillip Kennedy on Sept. 12, 2016, had at first been ruled a matter of self-defense.

Further investigation has led to an indictment against Damon Lamont Jones, Gulfport Police Sgt. Clayton Fulks said.

Jones turned himself in Wednesday after learning of a warrant for his arrest, Fulks said.

He was being held with no bond at the Harrison County jail.

Kennedy was shot about 9:29 p.m. at the intersection of 25th Street and Roberts Avenue, an area east of downtown Gulfport.

The shooting was believed to over the $20 worth of powdered cocaine or crack cocaine from an argument that started in North Gulfport.

A woman reported the shooting as soon as it happened, saying a man in her car had been shot and she was taking him to a hospital. Kennedy soon died at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, previous reports show.

Initial reports, according to police, showed a man now identified as Jones shot Kennedy, who returned fire. A stray round hit a house.

Police Chief Leonard Papania announced the circumstances and the self-defense decision in a news conference the next day.

First statements to police indicated Kennedy was acting in an aggressive manner, which caused the shooter to fear for his life.

"The killing was not over something a normal person would consider valuable or reasonable," Papania said at the time.

"The investigation did not stop," Fulks said.

"It continued well beyond the initial media statements at the time."

State prosecutors recently took the case to a Harrison County grand jury, Fulks said.

Jones was being held with no bond at the Harrison County jail pending a hearing in circuit court.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews
Patrick Ochs, 228-896-2326, @patrickochs