DA may not seek death penalty in stadium shooting

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 12, 2003

[9/12/03] Warren County District Attorney Gil Martin said this morning he may not seek the death penalty for a 20-year-old Vicksburg High School student charged with the shooting death of a man Wednesday.

Walter Jefferson, 202 Cain Ridge Road, made his initial appearance in court this morning before Municipal Court Judge Allen Derivaux where Jefferson was formally charged with capital murder. Under state statute, because the shooting happened on property used for education, Jefferson could get the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Martin said in a telephone interview that it is too early in the investigation to say for certain what happened, but the case does not look like a death penalty case at this point.

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“It’s ultimately going to be up to a grand jury to decide,” he said.

The next term of the grand jury is in October, but the case will not likely be presented until the January term.

At his appearance this morning, Jefferson walked into the city court room at the police department wearing a blue Warren County jail jumpsuit and shackles with chains around the waist.

City Prosecutor Bobby Robinson read the charges to Jefferson, who showed no emotion or had any reaction.

Jefferson was not represented by an attorney in court and asked that one be appointed for him. He is being held without bond in the Warren County Jail.

Jefferson is charged with the shooting death of O’Dare Lee Earl Mims, 20, 2807 Arcadia St., outside the field houses at Memorial Stadium off Drummond and Lee streets.

According to police reports, Jefferson was inside a car around 2:15 p.m. Wednesday when the fatal shot was fired. Mims was in the parking lot outside the football stadium and walking towards the car when he was shot.

Police would not say if the two had spoken before the shooting or why Mims was at the school. Authorities say an ongoing feud between Jefferson and Mims may have been the motive behind the shooting Wednesday afternoon.

Police have not said why they believe Mims was at the school or why Jefferson, a junior at Vicksburg High School, was in the parking lot area around the stadium. Reports indicated that a “handful” of students were in the area when the shot rang out.

On the day after the shooting, 60 students were recorded as absent from the school that was shocked by the shooting just before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Dr. John Walls, administrative assistant with the Vicksburg Warren School District, said the number of absences was about average. He said 56 of the school’s 1,129 students were absent Wednesday.

“I thought they would be higher (Thursday), but that’s a testament to the community,” said school Superintendent James Price. “Parents felt it appropriate for the children to come back (to school) to participate.”

Price said that more parents drove their children to school Thursday morning than normal, but that not as many picked them up.

“I think the parents just wanted to come and see for themselves. I stood out there and greeted them and talked to them as they pulled through.

They felt a little more comfortable bringing their children,” Price said.

After the shooting, Jefferson left the school grounds in a white car, which was spotted about 6 minutes later by a Warren County deputy on Mission 66 near Clay Street. The car was followed to Main Street where both Sheriff’s Department deputies and Vicksburg Police Department officers stopped the vehicle and arrested Jefferson without incident.

Police spokesman DaVon Grey said investigators have interviewed at least 12 witnesses from the shooting and may interview more.

Police recovered a .380-caliber pistol from the car Jefferson drove away from the school following the shooting.

Ken Chisholm, resident agent in charge for the Jackson ATF office, said his office is assisting the Vicksburg Police Department in determining how Jefferson obtained the gun. It is illegal for anyone under 21 to buy a gun or carry a handgun.

Chisholm said there are also federal statutes that prohibit carrying a weapon on school property, but that the ATF would not pursue those charges because of the seriousness of the capital murder charges.

Martin said he may add charges under state statute of possession of a firearm on school property.

Warren County Coroner John Thomason said an autopsy completed Thursday night in Pearl indicated Mims was shot once in the chest and the bullet struck the aorta artery that feeds blood into the heart. Thomason said Mims died before reaching the hospital.

Thomason said the shot was fired from close range, within three feet.