George Co. sheriff dies after arrest attempt

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

LUCEDALE (AP) — The sheriff of south Mississippi’s George County was killed Wednesday after being struck by a vehicle while trying to make an arrest on a road near the Alabama state line, officials said.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said in a news release that Sheriff Garry Welford was pronounced dead at 4:23 p.m. after being airlifted to the University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile.

Authorities released few details immediately about the incident on Bexley Road in George County, but Lawrence said suspects were being sought for questioning.

Lawrence said the incident happened as Welford was trying to make an arrest. It occurred about 3:30 p.m., said Brice Wiggins, who works in the district attorney’s office.

‘‘It’s still being investigated,’’ Wiggins said Wednesday night.

Mike Byrd, sheriff of neighboring Jackson County who was familiar with the incident, said Welford was throwing spikes on a road in George County to try to stop a pickup truck when Welford was struck.

Welford had been sheriff in George County since 2004. Before becoming sheriff, Welford worked 30 years as a conservation officer for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, according to a memo he wrote in 2008 to comment on a proposed environmental project.

George County has a population of about 22,681.

Welford was active in local events and enjoyed spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren, said state Rep. Deryk Parker, D-Lucedale.

‘‘He was a well known, well respected man. His whole family was well respected in this community,’’ Parker said. ‘‘It’s definitely a tragedy.’’