TUPELO, Miss. — The family of a 66-year-old grandmother killed in a drive-by shooting in northeast Mississippi has signaled it intends to sue a city and a police chief.
Local news outlets report that the family of Annie Walton has filed a notice of claim against the city of Verona and Police Chief J.B. Long. That warning is required before suing a Mississippi government.
Latavious Betts, 17, was arrested last week on charges of shooting and killing Walton on Dec. 7. Authorities said Betts fired more than a dozen shots into a house, striking Walton and four others who were wounded. Betts, 17, is jailed without bail in Lee County on charges of murder and aggravated assault. A lawyer for Betts didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email late Wednesday.
The family claims Long acted illegally by releasing Betts from jail in April on a murder charge after Betts was accused in the March 22 shooting death of Jazken Green at a Verona car wash.
Betts was released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond, meaning he didn’t have to pay the money up front, without seeing a judge. Long has said he didn’t have enough evidence to hold Betts.
The teen was later charged with aggravated assault following a July 8 shooting at a Verona convenience store that left two people injured. Long didn’t tell a judge about the murder charge during a court appearance in that matter and was released on $50,000 bail.
Betts was indicted in the case of the car wash killing and Lee County Circuit Court issued a warrant for him. That Oct. 4 warrant was never served and Betts remained free when the Dec. 7 drive-by shooting occurred.
“He never should have been on the streets,” Walton family attorney Casey Lott said. “He should have been behind bars and incapable of committing crimes. The ball was dropped not once but twice by Chief J.B. Long.”