Court papers ID triggerman in deadly Gulfport shooting

Court papers identify J’Var Vontou Pope as the triggerman in an armed robbery that killed one man and wounded two others in April.

Pope fired a 12-gauge shotgun three times, hitting each man once during the holdup in North Gulfport, affidavits show.

Mitchell Weathersby, 54, his brother and another man were hanging out near a building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard about 8:20 p.m. on April 6 when they were targeted and robbed, according to previous court testimony.

Pope was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Harrison County Justice Court. The hearing was delayed after court officials realized his public defender is the same one representing his co-defendant, county prosecutor Herman Cox said. A new date has not been set.

Pope’s alleged accomplice is Robert Emil Hart, 23, documents show.

Two felons charged

Pope and Hart, both felons, each face one count of murder and two counts of armed robbery and aggravated assault.

Gulfport police arrested Hart on June 4 in the triple shooting and robbery in North Gulfport. He was on probation for burglaries from 2010 and 2013. His probation on both has been revoked.

Hart’s new charges have been turned over for a grand jury review.

Pope has felony convictions from a residential burglary in 2009 and accessory after the fact to a driveby shooting in 2010. His probation on both charges also has been revoked.

Weathersby doted on younger relatives

Weathersby was a single man who doted on younger relatives, his family has said, and motivated his nieces and nephews to be the best they could be. He had health problems and had moved back home with his mother in the neighborhood were he was killed.

Police were dispatched to MLK and Tennessee Avenue that night in response to a crash with injuries. They learned Weathersby, the driver, had been shot and was trying to flee or get himself to a hospital.

Police were then notified shots had been fired at MLK and Louisiana Avenue. They found Eugene Weathersby and Jerry Lee Lewis, each shot once and severely wounded.

People had begun to talk about the shootings, which helped investigators identify Pope and Hart, the county prosecutor said.

Pope found four months later

Pope disappeared, police said, and was listed as a fugitive. He was arrested nearly four months later. Police found him Aug. 12 on Panola Street in Bay St. Louis. Pope tried to run but was taken into custody, Gulfport police Sgt. Damon McDaniel has said.

Bonds for Pope and Hart had been set at a total of $5 million each.

Pope, who has a child, was employed at the Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport and the Golden Nugget in Biloxi, he said in a court document.