IUKA – One law enforcement officer was killed and three were wounded early Saturday after a six-hour long standoff at a rural Mississippi house ended when authorities stormed the house and the gunman inside opened fire, authorities said.
Also killed was the man suspected of firing on the officers.
The standoff started Friday afternoon when authorities responded to a domestic dispute call at the home in Tishomingo County, authorities said.
But the man, holed up in his home with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, refused to come out, sparking a six-hour standoff with officers outside, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain.
Strain said the man wasn’t shooting at officers before they entered the house, but they had tried to talk with him for six hours and had fundamentally exhausted negotiations.
The woman and child were rescued, said Strain. But the man was killed after he opened fire as tactical teams entered the home.
Multiple police agencies remained on the scene Saturday afternoon at the one-story house in sparsely populated woods in Tishomingo County.
Killed were James Lee Tartt, 44, who was a Mississippi narcotics agent, and suspected gunman Charles Lee Lambert, who was 45. The high-powered rifle Lambert used was also recovered from inside the house.
Tartt was a decorated officer who had been in law enforcement for 22 years. He joined the narcotics bureau in 2000 and in 2011 had been honored as agent of the year, Strain said.
Strain said Tartt is the fifth Miss. Bureau of Narcotics agent killed in agency's 45-year history. The last agent killed was in 1998.
Tartt’s family described him as a dedicated officer who had spent most of his career battling drugs.
“He was just a really good guy, and he wanted to make the world a better place. Ever since I’ve known him he has always been the type who would do anything to make the world a better place,” said Julia Criss Tartt, the aunt of the slain officer.
Her husband, Don Tartt, who is the slain officer’s uncle, said Lee Tartt and his wife had just moved into a new house that the officer had been building for the last two years. They had married about a year ago, said Don Tartt, adding that Lee Tartt’s new wife had two children who became his stepchildren when they married.
Don Tartt said his daughter is Donna Tartt, the author who has written such books as “The Secret History” and “The Goldfinch,” and she was a cousin of the slain officer.
“Lee has always been a kind of dedicated kid,” said Don Tartt. “It’s just sad that he had to meet the end like he did, but when you’re in law enforcement you have to expect that.”
Three state troopers who entered the home were wounded. The most seriously wounded officer was out of surgery Saturday and in critical but stable condition at a hospital in Corinth, said Strain.
The other two officers were in fair condition at hospitals in Memphis and Tupelo, Strain said.
Lambert’s family said Saturday that law enforcement officials involved in the incident should have let family members speak with him as the standoff ensued.
Lambert’s adoptive mother, Katherine Hudson of Iuka, said she disagrees with how law enforcement handled the situation.
The officers would not let her speak with Lambert when the incident was taking place, she said.
“They wouldn’t let nobody talk to him,” she said.
Asked how she felt about how law enforcement handled the situation, Hudson said, “I feel like they didn’t know what they was doing. It was all their fault, because we (family members) could have talked to him and everything would have been all right. That’s what I tried to tell them. I tried to tell them that.”
Strain said the family is entitled to their opinion on how the incident was handled.
“These people (law enforcement) are trained to do what they do and the first order of business is preservation of life,” he said.
Strain declined further comment.
Around Iuka, Lambert was known as “Peanut.”
Lambert's biological mother, Diane Richardson of Nashville, also said the family should have been allowed to speak with Lambert.
“If any of the family would have been able to go in and talk to him, he would have been fine, and the officer would have been fine,” Richardson said.
Richardson was not present during the incident.
Asked how she thinks law enforcement handled the situation, Richardson said, “From what I hear, they didn't handle it very good, and besides that there was a 10-year-old girl in there. How did they know that she wasn’t going to get shot?”
Lambert “had been having problems,” said Hudson, adding, “He had gotten ill. It was like he wanted to be out there by himself.”
But she said Lambert was well liked and that it was unlike him to shoot an officer.
“Everybody loved Peanut,” Hudson said. “He wasn’t going to hurt nobody.”
Richardson also disagreed with the incident being referred to as a hostage situation.
“They said on the news that it was a hostage, and it was not a hostage,” Richardson said. “The baby and his wife could go in and out when they wanted to, and the police knew that.”
Lambert’s wife declined comment.
Richardson said she feels sorry for the narcotics agent who was killed and the other officers who were wounded.
“I feel sorry for the one that died, and I feel sorry for the ones that got shot,” Richardson said. “They got family; they got kids. But if they would have let somebody go in there and talk to Peanut then they wouldn’t have had to put their life in danger.”
Josh Mitchell of Corinth Today and the Associated Press contributed to this report.