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PD offices scattered but service continues

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2014

Offices for Vicksburg police will remain scattered going into next week following a fiery fatal wreck into police headquarters, but services will continue.

The police station at 820 Veto St. was evacuated Thursday night after a 1997 Ford Taurus driven by Carl James of Vicksburg knocked a hole in the southeast wall of the building and caught fire.

An autopsy Friday determined James suffered no lethal trauma from the crash, Deputy Coroner Kelda Bailess said. The official cause of death was still pending a toxicology report.

The building will remain closed until Vicksburg Fire Chief Charles Atkins determines it is safe to return, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

“We are not going back into the police department until I know it is safe to breath,” Flaggs said. “We cannot risk the lives or health of the people of our city,” he later added.

Officers had the department’s mobile command unit set up in front of the station today, while others were working out of the training center east of the department.

Three offices in the police department suffered extensive fire damage when James’ northbound vehicle left Monroe Street and ran though a fence before launching though an office wall and bursting into flames, Police Chief Walter Armstrong.

The rest of the building suffered smoke damage, he said.

Municipal Court was held Friday in the County Courtroom of the Warren County Courthouse and will continue to be there until further notice. Court services will be split between the courthouse and City Hall Annex. Records will also move temporarily into the annex.

A cleanup crew was working Friday to mitigate smoke damage. Restoration will first focus on areas of the building that suffered smoke damage before fixing the rooms that suffered fire damage, said Sammie Rainey, the city’s building maintenance supervisor.

“We are going to quarantine that area,” Rainey said.

While the fire-damaged area is being fixed, juvenile investigations and traffic enforcing will be housed in the training center, Armstrong said.

James’ Taurus landed on the desk of an investigator assigned to the juvenile division, Armstrong said. The investigator was not in the office because he was at the Randy Naylor Summer Program, Armstrong said.

“We had an officer in the very next office, and his first thought was it was a bomb,” Armstrong said.

The officer rushed to James’ aid but was unable to rescue him before the car caught fire, he said.

A gasoline leak and heat sparked the fire inside the juvenile investigation office of the police department, Fire Chief Charles Atkins said.

“The underside gas line was disconnected and the heat from the muffler started the fire,” Atkins said.