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Officer dead, another critically wounded in Tupelo shootout

7:54 PM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
A suspect is shown wearing a gray sweatshirt in a photo provided by the Mississippi Department of Safety. / Photo courtesy of the Clarion-Ledger.
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A father of two is dead after he was shot along with a fellow officer while responding to a bank robbery in Tupelo Monday afternoon.

Tupelo officials confirmed Monday night that Gale Stauffer, 38, who was also employed with the Army National Guard in Louisiana, succumbed to injuries he sustained when he and an unnamed 26-year-old officer responded to the bank robbery call on South Gloster Street, near the Main Street intersection. Authorities said the call came in around 3 p.m.

Stauffer was pronounced dead at 3:46 p.m.

"When tragedies happen we have to come together as a city," said Mayor Jason Shelton, as he asked the public to provide any information they might have.

Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said counseling will be offered to employees of the TPD.

"They are hurting very bad," he said.

Aguirre said the Lee County Sheriff's Department, the FBI, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol are assisting in the investigation.

"Right now we have no suspects in custody. We are conducting interviews of a lot of witnesses," Aguirre said.

A release from the Department of Public safety says authorities are looking for a black male, approximately 6'3", last seen wearing a Carhartt hoodie, blue jeans and a ski mask. That suspect is believed to have escaped in a dark gray Dodge Stratus.

Joe Evans, of Starkville, was in Tupelo Christmas shopping with his wife and sister in law. He said traffic was backed up with Christmas shoppers. The intersection is known to be one of the busiest not just in Tupelo, but in north Mississippi.

"Three Tupelo police cars came in from the north, one of them pulled off in front of us, and two behind us," he said. "Then I saw the two behind us get out of their cars and walk like they were going after someone, then the shooting started. I didn't count, but there were probably at least 15 shots if not more."

His wife and sister-in-law ducked down, and he started looking for an escape route in traffic. As he pulled off on a side street, Evans said, he saw two police officers laying in the street.

Ursula Donegan saw the events from the Atlanta Bread Company on South Gloster Street. She said she saw the blue lights and at first thought the police cars were coming to block the intersection for a funeral.

"The one cop pulled up in the turn lane and another pulled up, and one got out with his shotgun at his side," she said.

A train was blocking the intersection at the time the police arrived, Donegan said, holding traffic in place. Donegan said she saw the two officers walking and suddenly a man in a toboggan cap shot them both, "darn near point blank range."

Several people inside the store saw the shooting. Donegan said another man watched it happen with her.

"We both just started screaming," she said.

After the shooting, the man in the toboggan jumped into a car that took off down Carnation Street, Donegan said. Evans said his wife saw the door of a dark sedan closing and believed it to be the perpetrators.

"Cars were scrambling everywhere, there were several traffic accidents. It didn't hit any of us really what was going on until it was over, until we got out of there," said Evans.

"This is devastating. I just feel like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I just saw this," Donegan said.

Shelton asked for prayers for all those affected by the shooting.

"Today is the day that no family or law enforcement agency or administration wants to have," Shelton said.

Gale Stauffer is the son of longtime Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association Executive Director Debbie Brangenberg.

He is the father of two young children, Dixie and Skip. He is married to Beth Stauffer, a Tupelo real-estate agent.

Clarion-Ledger

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