HED:Hundreds mourn slain chief

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

More than 700 people packed into the Shannon High School gym Monday to mourn Shannon Police Chief Bobby Spencer, who was fatally shot in front of the police station early Saturday morning.

On the home team side, more than 200 law enforcement officers from across Northeast Mississippi sat stoically with black ribbons over their badges.

Law enforcement officers and Shannon residents sat quietly, some brushing away tears, as two ministers spoke about Spencer's devotion to the community and its safety and the sacrifice he made.

"He willingly laid (his life) down every day he put on that badge," said the Rev. Shawn Kinsey. "He placed his life on the line for us."

At a family member's suggestion, the Rev. Mark Cayson read the Beatitudes from Scripture, lingering on the passage: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."

"He was indeed a peacemaker," Cayson said. Spencer usually left his gun in his patrol car, preferring to disarm trouble with words instead of bullets, Cayson said.

Lee County Justice Court Judge Mayo Grubbs sang three hymns as mourners dabbed their eyes with tissues and struggled for composure.

A State Highway Patrol honor guard stood guard over Spencer's coffin before the memorial service. At the Shannon Cemetery, the honor guard gave Spencer, who had served as Shannon's top police officer for 20 years, a 21-gun salute.

Putting it on the line

Spencer's death reinforces the reality that police officers often put their lives on the line with little recognition from the public they are protecting, Cayson said.

"We citizens of Shannon have learned we don't give our police officers enough respect, money, appreciation É for putting their lives on the line," Cayson said.

Two other police chiefs and a sheriff are among those killed in the line of duty in Northeast Mississippi over the past 10 years.

On May 8, 1993, Potts Camp Police Chief Joe Thomason was fatally shot after he tried to stop a reckless, drunken driver on U.S. Highway 78. Jackie Russell Crouch Jr. of Tupelo was arrested and pleaded guilty to capital murder in May 1994; he is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

On Jan. 6, 1989, Verona Police Chief Bill Yant was fatally shot as he tried to serve a misdemeanor arrest warrant. A Laotian immigrant couple, Bounmy and Bouavanh Douangpraseut, who were living in Verona, were charged with capital murder.

Bounmy Douangpraseut, who reportedly shot Yant, hung himself in the Monroe County Jail after his arrest. His wife, Bouavanh, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to murder. She was sentenced to five years in prison and was ordered to leave the state after being released.

On May 7, 1986, Marshall County Sheriff Osborne Bell was fatally shot after he responded to a call for back-up from one of his deputies, who was investigating some suspicious drug activity on State Highway 309, said Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson, who served as the State Highway Patrol investigator on the case.

Bell and the deputy were in the process of arresting Bart Mease when Mease pulled a small pistol and shot Bell in the neck, Dickerson said. Mease originally was sentenced to death, but on an appeal he was given a new trial and subsequently sentenced to life in prison. He remains in the penitentiary at Parchman.

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