Ex-Three Rivers Fire Chief, Son Arrested in Mississippi

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) -- The former chief of the Three Rivers Volunteer Fire Department has been arrested on embezzlement charges, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd said.

In a related development, Byrd said the man's son has been charged firing a gun into the home of a witness in his father's case.

Charles Cunningham, 45, was arrested Tuesday on charges of embezzlement for allegedly using county gasoline and department equipment for personal use after Hurricane Katrina. He is also accused embezzling fire department funds for his personal business, Mississippi Emergency Response Training and Consulting Inc., the sheriff said.

Byrd said the charges involve the alleged theft of at least $200,000 in gasoline, equipment and cash. He said the case remains under investigation.

Cunningham's son, Dakota Cunningham, 19, was arrested on charges of drive-by shooting at a firefighter's home and felony malicious mischief for allegedly shooting several tires on fire trucks at the Three Rivers station, authorities said.

Investigators said the firefighter, whose name was not released, is a witness in the embezzlement case against Charles Cunningham.

Jackson County Judge Larry Wilson set the bond for Charles Cunningham at $10,000 and a total bond of $55,000 was set for Dakota Cunningham.

Dakota Cunningham, authorities said, was on active duty with the Mississippi National Guard at the time of his arrest.

County Fire Coordinator Ray Watson said Three Rivers firefighters asked Charles Cunningham to step down as chief on Sept. 10, but he refused. Two days later, county officials told Cunningham to step down after the investigation began.

Byrd said the investigation began after he received a complaint about Charles Cunningham allegedly using county gasoline and fire department equipment and money for his own use.

Information from: The Mississippi Press

Copyright 2005 Associated Press