MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After a sting operation in Desoto County resulted in an accused sex trafficker being shot after deputies say he tried to run them over, law enforcement agencies say they are actively seeking those who commit these types of crimes.

With bullet holes lodged in the windshield and evidence markers scattered across the parking lot, one thing comes to mind for Desoto County Sheriff’s department.

“My message to any criminal out there is, don’t come to Desoto County trying to hurt our deputies or anyone else in our innocent civilian population,” Chief Deputy Justin Smith said.

Leading up to this, deputies said they were pursuing 26-year-old Darielle Sparks after receiving credible information he was engaging in sex trafficking. As deputies were closing in on him, he allegedly tried to hit one of them, resulting in an officer shooting him.

Investigators are describing this as a sting operation targeting those who engage in human trafficking. While the specifics of the operation are not being released, deputies do acknowledge the dangers that come with it.

“It’s just where we live right now, it’s a very violent group of criminals we’re going after and sometimes they are going to respond to us violently when we try to take them into custody and this is the result of it,” Chief Deputy Justin Smith said.

Data from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation shows that last year, 275 cases were reported to them and other law enforcement agencies across the state involving 368 victims. Out of that number, 300 were minors. In that year, 20 people were arrested and 10 children were recovered. 

In an effort to reduce human trafficking and support victims in the Magnolia State, a website recently launched offering tips and allows folks to report suspected cases of trafficking.

Sparks is still in jail and charged with aggravated assault but additional charges are expected in the coming days.