Community reacts to shooting

Published 12:05 am Saturday, January 3, 2015

NATCHEZ — The killing of a 16-year-old Natchez resident Monday has community leaders pleading for youth violence to stop.

Jessie Taylor was shot late Sunday night in the Beaumont Street area after an alleged synthetic marijuana purchase turned into an armed robbery. He died from the gunshot wounds early Monday.

“Anytime you have a young person getting killed like that, the community is going to be upset,” Natchez Alderman Ricky Gray said Friday. “This is a rough situation, and it’s going to take us as an entire community to sit down, put everything on the table and find out what we can do to try and change the mindset of some of these kids.”

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Gray said the main issue is how youth in the community are acquiring firearms used in crimes.

“That’s a question that we all need to look at, is how in the world are these kids getting all these guns?” Gray said. “Police chief (Danny White) and I have talked about that, and we have to get that figured out quickly.”

John Hudson, who recently retired as Adams County Court Judge after 31 years of service, said the situation is an unfortunate one for all those involved.

As part of his duties as county judge, Hudson operated the youth court program and said these types of incidents come up all too often throughout the area.

“Natchez is not unique from other towns in that you have kids, particularly teenagers, who don’t think more than 24 hours in advance and sometimes no more than two minutes in advance,” Hudson said. “We’re not insulated in Natchez, but I do think we’ve been very fortunate quite frankly among the kids to not have any big fatalities like this in the past.

“But now that it’s happened, we have to ensure that this won’t be a situation where there’s been a death in vain.”

Hudson said changing the mentality of young people in regards to firearms could be an important first step to curbing similar situations from occurring in the future.

“Most of the time their response for having the gun is for protection, but the very fact that you’re bringing a gun causes other people to have guns and that causes other people to be hurt and killed,” Hudson said. “If you don’t have guns on you, somebody goes home with a bloody nose. If you have guns on you, someone goes to the hospital and winds up dead.”

Hudson said he hopes parents and others in the community will use Taylor’s death to educate more youth in the community on the consequences of their actions.

“I think it goes back to some kids that feel totally disconnected to everything and that’s a mentality that has to change,” Hudson said. “As a result of what’s happened, I hope that other kids that have ventured down that lonely, violent road make a U-turn and walk the in another direction and do what their more mature brethren do, which is pursue the greater things in life — education, careers, football, baseball or anything else.”

Tracy Collins, director of the Adams County Adolescent Offender Program, said she is also hoping to draw attention to youth violence in the community.

Collins, who has worked with juvenile offenders for nine years, said she has spoken to a variety of community members ranging from local pastors to law enforcement personnel about addressing the issue.

“This problem is not going to get better until we all address it,” Collins said.

Natchez police say Taylor was attempting to purchase synthetic marijuana from Eddie Minor III, 18, and Emanuel C. Latham Jr., 15, when a scuffle broke out as the two teenagers allegedly attempted to rob Taylor.

Police said Minor and Latham fired multiple shots, and Taylor shot once back at the two teens.

Investigators found several 9 mm shell casings on the street, but haven’t been able to recover the weapon from which the casings were fired.

Investigators did, however, recover a .380-cal. Pistol they believe belonged to Taylor, but no shell casings were recovered that matched the weapon.

Taylor was transported to Natchez Regional Medical Center where medical personnel made several attempts to revive him before he was pronounced dead at 1:10 a.m. at NRMC.

Both Minor and Latham have been charged with armed robbery and murder. Though Latham is a minor, he will be charged as an adult.