TIPPAH COUNTY, Miss. — A northeast Mississippi man was charged Monday with capital murder and aggravated assault in a shooting that resulted in the death of an off-duty state trooper, even as officials continued to release few details of what they believe happened.
Tippah County Prosecutor Bart Adams told The Associated Press that the charges were filed Monday by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation against 43-year-old Troy Anthony Eaton of Rienzi.
The shooting resulted in the death of 32-year-old trooper Kenneth “Josh” Smith of Walnut. A 38-year-old Michigan City resident was shot but is recovering, resulting in the aggravated assault charge.
Eaton yelled to WTVA-TV that the shooting was in “self-defense” outside a courthouse in Ashland, where he made an initial appearance. State court spokeswoman Beverly Kraft said Benton County Circuit Court Judge John Gregory ordered Eaton jailed without bail, but told prosecutors to hold a bail hearing later. A lawyer who represented Eaton didn’t respond Monday to an email seeking comment.
Smith died of his wounds before 1 a.m. Sunday in an isolated area near the Hatchie River southeast of Walnut. Eaton surrendered to authorities about five hours later.
It’s unclear what the men were doing off a dirt road in a remote area with patchy cell phone service. Tippah County Coroner Chris McCallister said the area is frequented by people who ride off-road vehicles, but declined to give any further information.
“As Corporal Smith’s former training director, I watched Josh become a state trooper in 2007,” Highway Patrol Col. Chris Gillard said in a statement. “When he, as all troopers do, took his oath of office he adopted a philosophy that the lives of others are more important than that of his own.”
Retired Mississippi Highway Patrolman Freddie Corbin told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that Smith had recently had foot surgery and was assigned to light duty helping out at the driver’s license office in Corinth, Corbin noted.
“He was an outstanding guy,” Corbin said of Smith.
Meanwhile, Martha Eaton described the suspect as a “very good man.”
Eaton, who said she is not related to the suspect, told the newspaper that she knew Troy Eaton as an easygoing person who liked to joke around. She added that he has always been willing to help others and that she had never seen him act violently.
People who know Eaton said he is married and has a daughter.
Hoyt Davis, who lives near Eaton in Alcorn County, said he had known Eaton since he was a child and never knew him to get into trouble or bother anybody. Eaton has no felony convictions, according to state court records.
“It’s a sad situation both ways,” Davis said.