Armed robbery on list of reports near Legion hall

Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When a masked gunman entered the American Legion on Monroe Street and demanded money Monday night, it became the 25th time police had been called to the hall since July.

“This has never happened before,” said Louis Hasty, the commander of Post 3. “The other incidents happened in the vicinity of the building, but not in it.”

The “other incidents” happened over the past three months, once on Sept. 27 when a 16-year-old was shot in the hand and a 17-year-old was pistol-whipped before a weapon was pointed at Vicksburg police officers outside the hall after a teen pary.

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A second report came on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when shots were fired into an unoccupied vehicle during a fight outside the building.

Monday night’s armed robbery happened just after 10 p.m., when 20 to 30 people were inside the hall playing bingo.

The masked man entered the building through a door on the south side near a parking lot. He pointed a sawed-off shotgun at the man behind the counter and demanded bingo money hanging on the wall behind the attendant. After taking the money, the bandit fled in an unknown direction, and no one inside could tell police whether he left on foot or in a vehicle. No injuries were reported.

Hasty said problems have more to do with the neighborhood than the post.

“Most of the incidents that are said to happen here actually take place on the other side of the bridge,” Hasty said, referring to the Drummond Street side of the bridge over Kansas City Southern Railway tracks, just a block from the hall.

“When we rent the hall for parties, security is posted at every door,” Hasty said. The security, usually former law enforcement officers, is contracted from a private company in Jackson.

Those officers check all people before they enter the building, he said.

Lt. Bobby Stewart of the Vicksburg Police Department said Tuesday that most of the 25 calls to the American Legion hall since July have been for false alarms.

In the Sept. 27 case, 19-year-old Timothy Caples Jr., 132 Pebble Beach Road, was charged in the shooting.

No arrest had been made in the Nov. 26 shooting report or in Monday’s robbery.

“The police don’t want us to have parties at all,” Hasty said, “but where else will the kids go?”

He said the rentals also generate funds for the post.

Hasty said members will address the crimes during a meeting Thursday.