CATEGORY: Marshall County
MAYOR OF POTTS CAMP INDICTED
By Cynthia M. Jeffries
POTTS CAMP - The mayor of Potts Camp has been indicted by a grand jury for allegedly hitting the town's former police chief.
And the Marshall County town is once again searching for a police chief.
Potts Camp Mayor Earnest Cruse, 51, appeared before a Circuit Court judge Tuesday to hear the formal charge of simple assault on a police officer. A Marshall County grand jury handed down the indictment Friday in connection with a November incident in which Cruse allegedly struck former Police Chief Greg Hopper in the face with a flashlight.
Cruse appeared at the Marshall County Sheriff's Department Saturday and was booked. He was released under a $5,000 bond.
If convicted of the charge, Cruse could be sentenced to a $1,000 fine and/or 5 years in prison. He would also have to step down from his elected office if convicted. Felony offenders are prohibited in Mississippi from holding public offices.
When contacted at his home Tuesday, Cruse relayed through his wife that he had no comment.
The charge stemmed from an incident that occurred about 2:35 a.m. Nov. 11 at Cruse's home. Hopper has said he went to the house after a Marshall County dispatcher radioed and told him the mayor wanted to accompany him on a disturbance call.
Exact details of the alleged assault have never been clear.
Shortly after the incident, Hopper was suspended with pay. Hopper, 30, remained on suspension for more than two months until he was fired Jan. 24.
"I feel the board did what they felt was right," Hopper said. "The board was concerned my safety would be at risk if I had to come down there with the mayor. I think they would have liked to see me come back."
Hopper has filed a civil lawsuit against Cruse over the alleged attack.
Alderwoman Joan Cox said the Board of Alderman had asked Hopper to submit medical records, but he refused repeatedly.
"We wrote him a letter asking him to give us a copy of his (medical) bill and we never got it," Cox said.
Cox said the town again has started a search for a police chief. Currently, the town has a part-time officer and Marshall County deputies also patrol the area.
Hopper was the town's third police chief since 1992. Before Hopper was hired in October, the town had been without a chief for 14 months. Jim Coop resigned from the job after 13 months, citing differences with the mayor. Coop now heads the K-9 unit at the Marshall County Sheriff's Department.
Cox said during the few weeks Hopper was in office he was placed on suspension twice by the mayor, but the town's board overrode both suspensions.
At one point, the mayor required that the police car remain at his home when it was not in use. The board also revoked that move.
Cruse is in his sixth year as mayor of the town, which is located on state Highway 178 in southeastern Marshall County. He was elected to his second term in 1993 when he ran unopposed.