‘Blood on your hands’: Mayor issues harsh warning to judges on setting bonds

Published 7:00 am Monday, May 15, 2023

NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson took a hard stand at Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, calling out judges who give bonds to repeat criminal offenders and release them into the community to commit other crimes.

The mayor and aldermen took time out of their scheduled agenda to discuss the deadly shooting that occurred Friday night in the parking lot of the strip mall on D’evereux Drive behind Popeye’s.

Two Natchez men — Travione Jones, 19, and Devon Washington, also 19, were slain and three others injured when a gunman with an assault-style weapon let loose a hail of bullets.

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Natchez Police have arrested two men — Mark Jordan Mitchell, 32, and Kaydeem Rykeim Conner, 25 — and charged them with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder for Friday’s shooting. Police also have an arrest warrant out for Jamointe Davis, 22, who will face the same charges.

“It was a very tough week last week with what occurred on North Union Street and also what occurred Friday night,” Gibson said. “I do want to commend our police chief and commend the sheriff for the partnership they are already exhibiting on working on these matters together. The sheriff and his department were there with our police on site Friday. We are grateful for their assistance and that partnership.”

He said Natchez Police investigators and officers did a “yeoman’s job” in their around-the-clock work to find the shooters and recover the weapon used in the crime so quickly.

He pledged that by the end of this calendar year, the city will work to install more cameras and greatly enhance lighting in our community.

Gibson also reminded the community those who have information about crimes could call Crime Stoppers, remain anonymous, and get a reward if information shared leads to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators.

“It is disheartening to know there are so many out there, including eye witnesses Friday night, who are reluctant to speak,” he said. “As I said over the weekend and I will say it again, withholding that information in my opinion is akin to a crime in and of itself. You may as well be an accessory to crime if you have information that could save lives in this community and are withholding it. We need your information, and it is your duty as a citizen to help us to keep this community safe.”

Gibson save his harshest comments for members of the judiciary who repeatedly set bonds and allow for the release of violent, repeat criminals.

“We have to make sure our judicial system is working, that our police and sheriff are communicating and if there is anyone who is in the system and they are bonded out, we need to question the terms of that bond, first and foremost. Some crimes, in my opinion, are too serious for anyone to be bonded out — especially when we are talking murder.

“The second part of that discussion is, if someone is out on bond and they commit another crime and they are arrested, there should be no other bond. There should be no other opportunity to be released. We have it on good authority that we have individuals in our community right now who have been in jail on one charge and released on one bond, and while that case is still pending, have been re-arrested on another crime, and let out again.

“I want to say now, as forcefully as I can say it, that is unconscionable. Any judge in any court and anyone in our legal system who thinks that right, if something should happen, you have blood on your hands,” Gibson said.

Ward 2 Aldermen Billie Joe Frazier said gun violence affects all in our community.

“We as a community as a whole are going to have to get a hold on this because this is a very, very bad stain on America. We have more mass shootings in the American that we every have and innocent people are getting killed. Natchez is not immune, and no other community is immune,” Frazier said. “I would like to say to the citizens, if you see something that’s wrong or something going down, say something. If you know that someone has a gun and has a mental problem, if you have kids at home, you need to check your kids and know what’s going on in your house. We need to start as adults and parents monitoring our surrounding and monitoring our kids.

“Our community is not immune and this weekend I was just stunned that something like this happened in Natchez.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Valencia Hall called the shooting a “total disrespect for life.”

She said she reached out to state legislators last year and asked them to address gun reform, but that did not happen.

“Not affect anyone’s second amendment rights, but to make some changes, in particular, red flag laws. That did not go anywhere last year. I have reached out to our state legislators again and have been told in this coming year, there will be more discussions on that in the state legislature. It’s up to our state legislators to assist us in making some laws,” she said.

Sarah Carter Smith said she has been researching ordinances and she thinks Natchez needs new regulations to keep patrons and employees safe in restaurants, bars and similar businesses, including event venues.

“I feel like Oxford has a pretty good one. I think we should look into making sure we have the appropriate codes in order to keep our patrons safe,” she said.

Gibson said now is a good time for that since the city is also taking a look at revising its noise ordinances.

“We have looked (at the noise ordinances) of various cities. We almost have that ready to go. This could be part of that discussion, as well,” he said.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving called for a town hall meeting on crime. She said other communities have programs, such as the Fathership Foundation of Philadelphia, that may help here.

“Maybe bring in the faith-based community in and all come together and have the discussion about safety,” Irving said. “Our police department can’t do it all.”