A Fulton man is behind bars after allegedly threatening to kill a Tremont resident, resulting in a brief lockdown at Tremont Attendance Center on Friday.
Officials with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department say Kevin Dewayne Steele, 43, of 525 Beans Ferry Road, Fulton, was arrested after attempting to use a 9mm handgun to coerce an individual at Tremont Grocery into helping him shoot a resident of Old Cotton Gin Road.
Both the store and the suspect’s intended victim are located near Tremont Attendance Center.
Authorities contacted school officials and had the school campus placed on lockdown until the suspect could be apprehended. The school remained closed for approximately 15 minutes.
Steele was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, along with a handful of misdemeanor charges, including public intoxication and resisting arrest.
As of Monday morning, Steele had yet to receive an initial court appearance and authorities still didn’t know his motive. According to Dickinson, he has no significant criminal record prior to this incident.
Surveillance footage taken from Tremont Grocery’s security system show Steele approaching a group of three individuals playing dominoes on a picnic table in front of the store just after 2 p.m. Friday. Steele sets a mason jar on the table, which authorities say contained moonshine, and begins speaking with the three individuals. After several minutes, Steele exits the camera’s range. He returns moments later, brandishing a pistol. Steele spends several minutes draped over the shoulders of one of the individuals, who claims Steele was trying to coerce him into traveling to a house on Old Cotton Gin Road and assaulting the resident there. Steele is extremely animated, frequently making broad gestures with the pistol and pointing it at the victim. At one point, Steele unloads the weapon, points it aggressively at something off camera, then reloads it. He promptly drops the weapon on the ground and retrieves it.
Eventually, Steele leaves, and one of the individuals contacts 911.
Authorities arrested Steele minutes later in the backyard of a residence on Old Cotton Gin Road. Witnesses in the area report hearing several gunshots, and authorities say it appears Steele fired several rounds into a tree near the house. Although his would-be victim was home at the time, he reportedly did not hear the shots.
Steele reportedly made no direct threats to the school or any of its occupants, Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson said the proximity of the school to both where the threat was made and the suspect’s intended destination were cause for concern.
“As a precautionary measure, because we had the potential for an active shooter situation, we contacted the school and placed it on lockdown,” Dickinson said. “School was about to let out. We didn’t want a bunch of vehicles in the area, making it difficult to do our job.”
The sheriff said deputies were already in the vicinity and were able to take the suspect into custody quickly.
“Everything worked out well,” Dickinson said. “We were able to quickly respond to the call and get to the suspect’s location.”