WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - More than a dozen law enforcement agencies attended a meeting in Waynesboro on Thursday to discuss the increase of gang-related violence in the area.
U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst was on hand to listen to officers and assure them that any and all federal resources would be available to assist them in their efforts to crack down on gang violence.
During the meeting, Hurst announced a new initiative from the Department of Justice designed to aid law enforcement.
“My message to law enforcement is we’ve got your back and you’ve got our thanks, and we’re going to do everything we can, not just in our urban areas, but now in our rural areas to implement Project Guardian." Hurst said. “We’re seeing crime from gangs spill out into our rural areas, and our rural law enforcement needs some support, so we’re here to back them up and put these violent criminals away.”
In December, 13-year old Zachary Bishop Jr. was shot and killed while in his Waynesboro apartment playing video games shortly before Christmas. His death, according to the Waynesboro Police Department, was the result of a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting, which they say was gang-related.
In January, six men were arrested in connection to a shooting in Perry County, which according to officials there, was also gang-related. In that shooting, several shots were fired into a vehicle and also into three apartments.
According to Agent in Charge for the ATF, Jason Denham, guns are often involved in gang-related crime and those involved will be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“Our message is that the federal government is alive and well in south Mississippi, even in the rural areas, and we will exhaust every effort to find them.” Denham said. “Those people think they can find quarter in rural areas, but there’s no place we wouldn’t hunt them down, there’s no place we’re not going to assist state and local law enforcement in finding them, arresting them and prosecuting them.”
The meeting was held at the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department.