Update: Gulfport man shot to death; one in custody

Gulfport police arrested Michael Phillip Peden, 25, of Gulfport, on a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Christopher Jerome Smith.

Smith, 30, was shot dead early Friday morning, police said, and his body was found on the back porch of a unit at Gulf Mist apartment complex.

Smith had been banned from the apartment complex where he was found, according to a document from the property managers.

Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said Smith had a fatal bullet wound to the chest. His death is the seventh homicide of the year in the city.

Police Sgt. Damon McDaniel said an investigation revealed Smith and Peden got into an argument and Peden pulled out a handgun and fired shots that hit Smith in the upper torso.

Peden ran away but remained in the area, McDaniel said, and police found and arrested him.

He is being held at the Harrison County jail on a $1 million bond set by Justice Court Judge Louise D. Ladner.

Smith did not live at Gulf Mist, but he frequently visited his girlfriend there, apartment manager Jamie Hatcher said.

Smith had been living on Jo Ellen Circle, according to apartment documents.

Hatcher said she had given him a “no-trespass notice.” His girlfriend had attempted to add him to her lease, but Hatcher denied him because of the no-trespass notice.

The no-trespass document reads “... due to your recent actions, you are no longer welcome at Gulf Mist Apartments. ... If you choose to ignore this warning, the local police department is authorized to arrest and prosecute you under one or more of local and state no-trespass statutes.

“We are sorry it has become necessary to take this action but our residents deserve and are entitled to the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their residence.”

“He wasn’t supposed to be here,” Hatcher said.

Gulfport police received several calls of shots fired about 3:30 a.m. They found Smith’s body about 100 yards from his girlfriend’s apartment building.

A cousin of Smith’s girlfriend, who lives in the complex, said she found out about the shooting on Facebook early Friday. She called her cousin repeatedly but no one answered.

She said she remembered Smith as having a great sense of humor.

Other neighbors say they were familiar with Smith but had few details on him.

Tenants across from where Smith was found gathered outside their apartments as the sun came up. Most of them said they didn’t hear any gunshots. Some said they heard about the shooting just outside their doors after watching the news on TV.

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