Alleged gang may be responsible for assaults

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 5, 2011

NATCHEZ — A group in Natchez calling themselves 51-50 was recently investigated for its possible involvement in the attack on two men on Main Street early Sunday morning, Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said.

The 51-50 group is apparently made of mostly white males ages 19 to 28, who participate in what Mayfield described as a “fight club” that practices mixed martial arts.

“There absolutely is a (51-50) group out there. We have been actively investigating them and made several arrests,” Mayfield said.

Email newsletter signup

Mayfield said until recently, the group had fallen below the radar after activity lessened since his office put pressure on members.

Several arrests — some drug related — of suspected 51-50 members were made in the fall, Mayfield said.

“We have an extensive file on (the group),” Mayfield said.

The 51-50 group surfaced again in an investigation of a Jan. 30 simple assault incident at Andrew’s Tavern.

Early Sunday morning, two men, ages 44 and 29, were transported by ambulance to Natchez Community Hospital for injuries to the head and face after each was struck to the ground.

Mayfield said the suspects, John Christopher Marsh, 27, 138 Cloverdale Road, and Mark L. Sturdivant II, 24, 1211 Plum St. Vidalia, were arrested and pleaded guilty to simple assault and disturbing the peace. Their sentence hearings have been delayed.

Victims said they did not know their attackers or the reason for the assault, Mayfield said.

The suspects claimed an altercation took place before the victims were hit, Mayfield said.

Owners of Andrew’s Tavern also pressed charges against the suspects for disturbing the peace of a business.

Mayfield said he cannot confirm if Sunday’s assaults were the results of gang-related activity. But he did say the investigation of the assaults gave evidence that the 51-50 still exists.

“We had hoped we had gotten (51-50) to disband, but obviously there is still some activity,” Mayfield said.

He said his office has suspected the group’s involvement in a number of similar past assaults on Main Street, specifically during the summer.

But since past victims either chose not to press charges or could not identify their attacker, prosecuting the incidences has been difficult, Mayfield said.

He said in many incidents victims were hit from behind in cases when 51-50 group members were suspected.

Mayfield said intelligence reports reveal new members of the 51-50 group are required to “knock out” people as part of the initiation process.

Members of 51-50 have also been known to use brass knuckles, according to intelligence reports, which Mayfield noted are sometimes based on hearsay.

“That’s aggravated assault — a felony,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said he takes assaults on strangers very seriously. Those types of situations have the potential to escalate to a very dangerous situation, he said.

He said 51-50 group is on his radar and will stay on this radar.

“We’re going to keep the pressure up,” Mayfield said.

“It’s ignorant behavior and it’s not going to be tolerated.”