MAYOR: Tuesday shooting on North Union has no known ties to mental health center

Published 12:53 pm Thursday, May 4, 2023

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NATCHEZ —Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said there has been no confirmation of a statement that a Tuesday night shooting in the 800 block of North Union is related to anything happening at the “mental health home on North Union.”

The statement, made on the Next Door social media app and widely circulated, is in response to an incident that severely injured a dog and frightened homeowners.

Bruce Professional Counseling Service operates a 28-bed inpatient treatment center for children and adolescents with mental and behavioral difficulties at the former Natchez Children’s Home at 806 N. Union St., within a few blocks of where the shooting took place.

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A post on the social media application said that a “home resident escaped” just before at least eight gunshots were fired in the 800 block of North Union Street. The shooting  wounded a Golden Retriever  as his owner was walking with him on a leash in her mother’s front yard.

“We have not received any confirmation that it’s true,” Gibson said of whether the shooting had any connection to the mental health center. He also could not confirm if a resident ran away from the center the night of the shooting.

“We ask if anyone has any solid evidence to come forward,” he added. “The investigation is continuing but has shown no connection thus far. This is still an active investigation and we are taking it very seriously. We are hopeful that anyone with any information to share will call the police or Crime Stoppers without fear of their identity being revealed. If their info leads to an arrest, they will receive a reward.

“We appeal to anyone with any knowledge to report it to help us keep our city safe. Incidents like this should not happen anywhere and definitely not in Natchez.”

Dr. Tina Bruce, who owns the facility, refused to comment on the matter.

“What the what? I don’t have any comment on that. Please don’t call me anymore,” Bruce said.

There has been conflict between neighbors and the center since it opened in January without the neighborhood receiving notice.

The city attorney previously issued a cease-and-desist letter after investigating potential licensing issues with the property. It was revealed that in July 2022, privilege license No. S01064 was issued to Bruce Professional Counseling Services for a “daycare service” at the 806 N. Union St. property, which is not the correct license type.

The center has since reopened and remains operational while legal representatives of both the city and Bruce negotiate a resolution.

The property is zoned as R-3 Mixed Density Residential, which is the same zoning type used for multi-bed facilities such as a Bed and Breakfast or the old Natchez Children’s Home. Bruce did not make a rezoning request to the planning commission for the property when she received her privilege license for a daycare service, and therefore, no notices were given to neighboring residents.

“We had a discussion just last night with an attorney who is assisting us to ascertain the status of this matter. We are waiting on an update,” Gibson said, adding he couldn’t comment any further.

Gibson did address other concerns of neighbors in light of the shooting.

“We are already looking into ways to make cameras more available to the public that can be synced with the system monitored by our police department and we are also looking into ways to improve lighting in our neighborhoods,” he said.

“We understand that there is a concern … with regard to absentee homeowners and properties that are unkempt. By the end of this month, we hope to have our first adjudication hearing on many of these properties now that we have a new full-time police officer hired and assigned to code enforcement.”

Gibson said he talked to the young lady who was shot at on Tuesday evening, who asked to remain anonymous while the shooter remains at large.

“We are so grateful she is OK and, by all accounts, her dog Murphy is going to be OK and are grateful for her safety and that this was not worse,” he said.