Two Fayette police officers, dispatcher killed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2003

FAYETTE (AP) – A teenage suspect grabbed an officer’s gun and opened fire early Saturday in a small-town police station, killing two officers and a dispatcher before fleeing in a patrol car, authorities said.

The 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.

In jail records, Mississippi authorities identified the driver as Devan Darnel Moore, 18, of Jasper, located about 30 miles northeast of Fayette.

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District Attorney Chris McCool said the suspect would be charged with capital murder.

Officials said Moore, who grew up in Fayette but graduated high school in neighboring Walker County two weeks ago, was being booked on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle when the gunfire erupted.

The shootings stunned this quiet community of 5,000, an old textile town where many people work in small manufacturing plants near Alabama’s hilly coal country.

Moore was well known in Fayette because his older brother, Michael Moore, played football at the University of Alabama and is now with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe.

”I never saw anything to make me think he’d be a mass murderer,” said teacher Ron Hannah, adding that the younger Moore also had once played football. ”He was just a normal kid.”

Moore’s father, Kenneth Moore, told The Associated Press his younger son had a troubled past but he thought the young man had turned things around when he graduated and announced he would join the Air Force.

”The people here that I’ve been talking to, I told he needs help,” Kenneth Moore said after his son’s arrest.

The two Fayette police officers and dispatcher, all veterans, were fatally shot inside the one-story, brick police station about 5:30 a.m. CDT, said coroner Richard Nelson.

A firefighter heard the shots from the adjoining fire station and rushed into the Police Department. The suspect already was gone, said Mayor Ron Nelson, and the men were dead.

Moore was arrested about 9 a.m. CDT, some 12 miles west of the Alabama border.

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, and an officer’s weapon was taken. Nelson said the department had 14 officers before the shooting.

”This is a tragedy for our community,” Nelson said. The Alabama House of Representatives, in session Saturday, held a moment of silence for the victims.

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 but didn’t know what could have motivated the violence.

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

Moore is black, and Wilson said some black residents have complained in years past of heavy-handed police tactics. But Wilson, who also is black, said such problems were over and denied race was a factor, noting that Crump was black. Strickland and Mealer were white.

Moore’s father said his son was a troubled young man believed by his mother to be involved in selling drugs.

”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,” he said. ”I raised him from a baby, but people don’t listen.”