Robbery possible motive in Cole’s homicide|[07/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vicksburg police officers returned this morning to the scene where a retired colleague was found dead in an apparent homicide Wednesday, and they said robbery could have been the motive.

“We’re still following up on leads and trying to trace Mr. Cole’s whereabouts and steps as of the days of Monday and Tuesday,” said Vicksburg Police Lt. Bobby Stewart.

Walter C. Cole, 75, was found early Wednesday in his Chrysler less than a mile from his home at 258 Jefferson Circle, Apt. 250-B, a part of Vicksburg Housing Authority’s Waltersville Estates that is reserved for the elderly. He had a gunshot wound in the head, and police believe the shooting occurred Tuesday.

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“It appears he had pulled up and parked for some reason,” Stewart said. When the car was discovered, the windows were rolled down and the vehicle was in park and the ignition was turned off. The car was about a car’s width off Pittman Road on city right-of-way.

Some of Cole’s personal effects were missing, so robbery is a possible motive, Stewart said, but no suspects or motive has been determined.

Cole retired from the Vicksburg Police Department in 1995 after attaining the rank of assistant chief, the third highest spot on the force. He had among the first seven black officers hired by the department in the late 1960s.

From 1997 until 2005, Cole worked as a detention officer at the Warren County Jail.

An autopsy at the Mississippi Crime Lab in Jackson was scheduled for tonight, said Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey, and Stewart said he expected the examination to show the trajectory of a single bullet.

Cole had not been reported missing because most of his family is from out of town.

Jim Stirgus, director of the Vicksburg Housing Authority, said Cole decided to live at the complex “because he wanted to be off by himself.” He cited the gated community’s privacy and guards being on duty from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. as factors in Cole’s choice.

Jefferson Circle is mainly occupied by elderly and disabled residents, and their rents are determined individually. Stirgus said Cole paid $375 monthly.

Stirgus said the standards to live in public housing are relatively stringent.

“You must have an income in order to live there,” he said. “We’ve adopted the Work First program, so we offer houses to those who work before those who don’t.”

Williams Funeral Service has charge of arrangements.