6/7/2003 11:34:30 PM
Daily Journal
FAYETTE, Ala. - An 18-year-old suspect being booked at a small town police station grabbed an officer's gun and opened fire early Saturday, killing two officers and a dispatcher before fleeing in a police car, authorities said.


The dark blue Crown Victoria police cruiser was spotted about 3 1/2 hours later, just across the state line in Mississippi, and the driver was arrested, said Lowndes County, Miss., Sheriff's Deputy Tony Mulligan.


Mississippi authorities in jail records identified the driver as Devan Darnel Moore of Jasper, a town about 30 miles northeast of Fayette, where he's known as Devon Moore.


Moore's father, Kenneth Moore, told The Associated Press that the boy's mother told him their son was involved in selling drugs.


The two police officers and dispatcher were shot to death inside the Fayette police station, near the town's City Hall, at about 5:30 a.m., said coroner Richard Nelson. Moore was arrested at 9 a.m. about 12 miles west of the Alabama border.


At the time of the shooting, the suspect was being booked in connection with a stolen vehicle, said Fayette City Councilman David Brand.


Mayor Ray Nelson said the suspect had been handcuffed after being stopped about 3 a.m., but the handcuffs could have been removed during fingerprinting. "There was a struggle," Nelson said. He said an officer's weapon was taken by the suspect. Nelson said the department had 14 officers before the shooting.


"This is a tragedy for our community. I'm in a state of shock," Nelson said. "There's not a better place to live than Fayette, Alabama. It's just a sad day."


Fayette City Councilman Cedric Wilson identified the dead as Cpl. James Crump, Officer Arnold Strickland and dispatcher Ace Mealer.


He said he was familiar with the suspect and knew his father, Kenny Moore, very well. He said he did not know if the suspect had been in trouble before or what motivated him to do the shooting.


"That kind of boggles all of us, what would make him do such a thing," Wilson said.


He said the dead officers and dispatcher were alone in the police station at the time and that a firefighter, whose department is next door, found the bodies and called for help.


The suspect is believed to have fled through an open door on the south side of the building, Wilson said.


Moore's 48-year-old father told The AP in a telephone interview that his son was a troubled child who stole cars and harassed people at school. He said didn't know if his son sold drugs, but had been told that by the teen's mother.


"I kept telling people about it, going to the church and telling people he was a troubled child, but people didn't pay me no mind," Kenneth Moore said. "I raised him from a baby, but people don't listen."


He said he thought his son had finally turned things around when he graduated from high school two weeks ago and announced that he intended to join the Air Force on Tuesday.


"I'm a discipline parent and everybody around town knows I'm a good parent," Moore said. "One parent can't do it all by himself, not when you got a mother telling him he's just a baby."


Moore said he sent his son to live with his mother two years ago because he couldn't control him. He said his son would often steal his car.


"The people here that I've been talking to I told he needs help," Moore said.


Moore said that last year his mother found a gun in the house belonging to her son. It's unclear if the gun was ever turned over to the police, though Mr. Moore said it was his understanding that it wasn't turned over.


Doris Brasher, who owns a grocery store on Highway 96 within a couple miles of the station, heard about the shootings on her police scanner when she went into work shortly before dawn.


"I was just upset about the policemen because Mr. Strickland one of the officers who was killed came by regularly and stopped in by the store and made sure I was okay," Brasher said. "He was a very nice man."


She added that many in the close-knit town knew the three men and regarded them fondly.


Fayette, a town of about 5,000 residents, is about 50 miles west of Birmingham in a mostly rural, forested area near Alabama's coal mines