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Firefight with Deputies Ends In Tragedy

John Montgomery is rushed to a waiting ambulance after being shot by Deputies early Monday morning.


Lowndes County Sheriff’s Deputies fatally wounded 44-yr-old John Rogers Montgomery in a shoot-out in the woods off of Askew Rd. near Artesia around 9:30am Monday morning. Montgomery had been the subject of an area-wide two day manhunt involving nine agencies from three counties after he pulled a gun on a family member Sunday.

Lowndes County E-911 dispatched  Dpty. Darrell Nabors shortly before 9:00am Sunday to 257 Askew Rd. just south of EMCC off of 45 Alt. John Montgomery’s niece, Leslie Taylor, had called authorities because she was concerned for her uncle’s health. Taylor told Nabors that Montgomery was a paranoid schizophrenic and that he had refused to take his medications since December. According to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s office, Taylor asked Dpty. Nabors to have him committed to Willowbrook  Hospital so he could receive some help. Nabors informed Taylor that only the paramedics could make that determination, and he radioed in for BMH-GT ambulance and back-up from Dpty. Randy Collins.

The team readies their firearms as they approach the house

Taylor told Nabors that she had seen Montgomery walking around the neighborhood in a daze, knocking over mailboxes and acting erratically. As EMT’s arrived alongside Dpty. Collins, Taylor and her husband Kenneth said although they knew Montgomery owned several guns, they did not think he had any ammunition. Kenneth Taylor offered to use his spare key to open he door to Montgomery’s adjacent trailer at 249 Askew after Montgomery refused to answer the door.

As Taylor opened the front door, Taylor immediately ran off of the porch and yelled to deputies: “He’s got a gun!!” Dpty. Nabors approached the front door and ordered Montgomery from the home. As Montgomery approached the front door, Nabors noticed that his right arm was down straight (as if it could be concealing a weapon) and he ordered Montgomery to show his hands. Nabors reached for the door, but Montgomery was able to get it closed.

Nabors and Collins escorted the Taylors back to safety and established a perimeter about 50 yards away from the trailer. Lowndes County Sheriffs Assistant Supervisor Larry Swearingen quickly arrived on scene and began to interview family members at the trailer on 257 Askew. As Swearingen gathered information, he noticed Montgomery sneak out of the back door of his trailer carrying what appeared to be a small caliber rifle.    Deputies pursued Montgomery around the north end of his home until he ran into the nearby woods. As Nabors and Collins kept an eye on the treeline, Swearingen made the call to mobilize the Lowndes County Special Response Team (SRT) to help assist in the manhunt.

Chief Deputy Greg Wright

Around 11:30am Sunday, members from the Lowndes County Sheriffs, Columbus Fire Dept., Columbus Police, Mississippi Fish and Wildlife and BMH-GT paramedics were on scene to coordinate the search. The teams searched several properties in and around the area, including the southern border of EMCC and various cornfields. Shortly after 1:00pm, EMCC security officers, Clay County Sheriffs, Mississippi Highway Patrol and Oktibbeha County SRT and Sheriffs arrived on scene to assist. Despite nearly six hours of searching and several reported sightings, Montgomery successfully evaded capture. The decision was made around 5:30pm Sunday to stop the search and resume again in the morning. Dpty. Todd Mistrop kept a close patrol on the area until the search resumed Monday morning.

Lowndes County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Greg Wright returned to the area with a team of deputies around 8:30am Monday morning after patrolling deputies witnessed Montgomery’s mother, Virginia Spencer, drive from the family home on 257 Askew down to her son’s trailer.
The decision was made shortly after seeing Spencer go into Montgomery’s home that deputies would need to move quickly to assure her safety. Larry Swearingen was deployed in full camouflage into the woods north of Askew Rd as the rescue team assembled under some shade trees by a home on the corner of Askew and 45 Alt. Chief Dpty. Greg Wright held a ten minute strategy session with the nine men who would be involved in the mission. In the assembled group were: An ambulance crew from BMH-GT (I apologize profusely for failing to get their names) SRT & CFD member Neal Austin, Inv. James Faris, Lt. Tony Perkins, Lt. Willie Jones, Captain Joe Young, Detective Eli Perrigin, Dpty. Jason Humbers, Dpty. Paul Greggs and Dpty. Will Stann. [For the sake of brevity, I will refer to all officers hereafter by only their last name – CK]

Gregs. Austin, Jones, Perrigin, Stann, Humbers and Faris

The nine men drove down the road and turned onto Askew Rd, parking halfway in between the family trailer and Montgomery’s home. The men checked their firearms as they briskly walked down the road towards his home. As the team passed a small line of shrubbery, Virginia Spencer appeared in front of the home in the driveway. Just as Wright and Perkins approached Spencer to get her away from the home, Montgomery bolted out of his front door and across the gravel drive into the woods.

Greggs retrieves his shield as Greg Wright and Sheriff Howard discuss the shootout

Officers filed into the woods using the same entrance as Montgomery, but quickly fanned out in formation as the penetrated the timberland. [Captain Joe Young held the rear of the pursuit, and alertly ordered me behind a small sedan parked in the home’s driveway. I would like to thank Young personally for not allowing me any closer to the ensuing action than that. – CK]     [No information on the actual shoot out was released by the Sheriff’s Department or by the investigating agency- the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations(MBI). I was within earshot of the gunfight, and will try my best to be accurate:      Several officers loudly shouted at Montgomery to drop the weapon. (The weapon was confirmed by MBI to be the same small caliber rifle as the day before)

. A single shot which I believe to have come from the rifle was the first I remember. It was shortly followed by four to five louder shots of a clearly larger caliber weapon. (Deputies are issued .45 Caliber Glocks, but are allowed to carry 9mm or 40mm pistols with department approval – CK)    There were approximately 4 more shots I believe to have come from the rifle (Montgomery’s) exchanged intermittently with at least seven other shots from at least 2 different weapons. The first part of the firefight lasted about 45 seconds. After the gunfire stopped, several officers could be heard yelling “clear!!” to each other and shouting directions that I could not make out. After a eerie silence that approached 30 seconds, a very clear “put the gun down!!!” rang through the warm morning sky.

Swearingen shortly after the firefight

The plea was answered with a rifle shot and about four quick shots from what sounded like a handgun. I believe one more rifle shot came out before the sound of a fully-automatic weapon could be heard firing in response. After about 30 seconds of silence, I heard the waiting ambulance get called into the scene-CK]

Wright, carrying a 12-gauge shotgun, emerged from the forest first, followed shortly thereafter by Perkins. As the ambulance crew parked and entered the woods, Swearingen emerged in full camouflage carrying a M-4 assault rifle [Up until that point, I had no idea Swearingen had been stationed in the woods ahead of time – CK]

Wright immediately phoned for support from Metro Narcotics and MBI and made his way to Mrs. Spencer who had ran up the road upon hearing the gunfire.

“My baby! My baby!” She cried. “Please no!” Spencer cried as Wright embraced her.

Virginia Spencer grieves after her son was shot

Meanwhile, 200 yards into the woods, BMH-GT paramedics were frantically working on Montgomery as he lay on the pine strewn ground. Montgomery was struck by at least two shots to the upper chest area. Montgomery was rushed to BMH-GT in critical condition, in which he remained until he passed early Tuesday morning.

Sheriff Butch Howard arrived on scene around 10:05am and the entire area was roped off until MBI arrived at 10:20am. Both Howard and Wright said that it was a terrible situation and a tragedy for all involved.

It can be deduced that the five officers placed on administrative leave by Sheriff Butch Howard were the only five that fired their weapons in the encounter. The five men believed to be granted leave were : Greg Wright, Larry Swearingen, Eli Perrigin, Jason Humbers and Paul Greggs. (Administrative leave is traditionally granted when weapons are used in the line of duty. Sheriff Butch Howard was said to have checked in on the officers while they were on leave and allegedly told them to take as much time as they needed to return healthy)

[I did my best not to make any assumptions in the story and tried to be as accurate as possible in my description. I can tell you that none of the men involved were happy with how the situation ended and they were noticeably affected. Several of the men went out of their way to comfort the family outside of their home shortly after. As I left Askew Rd., one of the officers told his partners:  “Hate that it came to that…Just a shame.” – CK]



  1. I really wish newspapers wouldn’t print bodies on stretchers, especially if the person dies. John’s sister is a co-worker of mine & this whole tragedy has been difficult enough without them also having to deal with any kind of sensationalism.

  2. Johnny Phillip Morris

    We ain’t in Mayberry anymore. And Butch Howard ain’t no Sheriff Andy. I Never heard of Andy “taking a drink.” But I do believe he was known to have accepted an offer to partake a drink of a “Big Orange” on special occasions, like at football games.

    The on site lynching/execution of John Montgomery across the River being the latest example of “cops gone wild.” We are seeing more of these shoot-to-kill manhunts/traffic stops across the nation as these returning Iraq/Afghanistan “Lethal Warrior” veterans return to their jobs in law enforcement and so-called homeland security.

    Why was it necessary for a gang of fully automatic weapon-toting deputies to pursue Mr. Montgomery into his sanctuary of the woods where he was a threat to no one but himself? Why wasn’t Virginia allowed to talk her son into a peaceful surrender? No. They wanted the trophy kill of a fleeing paranoid schizophrenic man armed with a .22 caliber rifle.

    I wonder if Bernie will award them a big a bouquet of roses?

    I’m wondering now if Physical Fitness tests for US Marshalls are all that important, given the shoot-to-kill orders now in place. More emphasis on marksmanship skills… trumping pushups and running requirements.

    The Friendly City doesn’t seem so friendly, anymore.

    This is how Sheriff Andy would’ve done it:


  3. Bryan Conner

    You should contact the Sheriff’s department and give them all of your contact information. The next time there is a mentally disturbed, out of control, paranoid schizophrenic who is armed and running wild, the Sheriff’s department can call you and have you come to the scene and pretend to be Andy Griffith.

  4. Johnny Phillip Morris

    His mother would’ve handled the situation in a “sane” manner without the use of the H&K MPs and riot shotguns.

    He was no threat to anyone when he entered the woods. At that point, Virginia could’ve arranged a peaceful surrender without the use of gunfire.

    Did you make the fatal shot to the chest?

  5. Johnny Phillip Morris

    I stand corrected:The deputy(ies) were armed with M-4 (M-16)assault rifles, not the H&K MP5. Some Mississippi law officers are armed with the MP5s. Totally unnecessary, IMHO.

    Maybe while the deputies and investigators are in that area, they can catch the scarp metal thieves that have been looting the areas west of the River for the past year. They seem clueless so far. No military arsenal necessary… just good detective work.

  6. Johnny Phillip Morris

    I really wish newspapers wouldn’t print bodies on stretchers, especially if the person dies. John’s sister is a co-worker of mine & this whole tragedy has been difficult enough without them also having to deal with any kind of sensationalism.

    Roger Larsen , through the pages of the Columbus Packet, brought much needed “in your face journalism” to the the Friendly City and Prairie after years of “embedded” journalism from the Imes family. We need the good, the bad and the ugly of life here if we are to make intelligent decisions as to whom we appoint to lead us. If one wants “puff and fluff,” go to Birney.
    I don’t know what Angie’s feelings are on this matter, but that photo of John on that stretcher spoke volumes of what our law enforcement kill teams are doing across the Nation under the guise of “fighting terrorism.” John Montgomery was a threat to no one but himself.
    We miss your “unembedded reporting” and someone “up there” must really like you, too. Happy that the cards were stacked in your and we won’t be seeing your name in the files of the crash scene investigation team of the NTSB. Can’t you just see the headlines in The Columbus Packet:Former Packet Editor and Local Whistleblower Crashes On Takeoff;NTSB Rules Engine Failure As Cause of Crash.

    Hold Their feet To the fire, as always.

  7. Johnny Phillip Morris

    What has happened to Ziggy’s videos? Why was he not in Artesia on the takedown–how can you ever call it a “firefight?”

  8. Johnny Phillip Morris

    You’d think that anyone who lives in our Southland would know that you don’t engage in a high speed chase– with guns’a blazin’ –through streets crowded with holiday revelers, pursuing a skert black man! “They” run;they don’t confront. That’s why the cops call’em RUNNERS. Can anyone imagine this happening in New Orleans during Mardi Gras? And this needless shooting all began with a simple traffic stop gone wild.

    A search of the car revealed that a weapon was found but was not in plain sight.
    Anyone would be a fool to go unarmed into a Miami, a New Orleans or a Jackson, Mississippi.

    Urban Dictionary definition for SKERT

    To drive really fast and out of control, especially around blind corners of a parking lot garage or running from the po po.


  9. Johnny Phillip Morris


    …The police description of events starts a few minutes before 4 a.m. near Collins and 16th Street, where a Hialeah police officer tried to conduct a traffic stop of the Hyundai.

    Herisse ignored police and struck the officer, then hit or almost hit several more as he drove south on Collins, slamming into barricades and cars and going onto the sidewalk, police said.

    Video shot from a nearby fifth-floor apartment and posted on YouTube shows the car speeding down Collins Avenue amid gunfire and skidding to a stop after four shots rang out. Officers surrounded the car with their guns drawn, and about a minute later fired a barrage of bullets.

    Four bystanders were struck by bullets. Three officers had minor injuries.

    Noriega previously did not rule out the possibility that the bystanders were struck by police bullets.

    Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/01/2245601/miami-beach-police-chief-defends.html#ixzz1OxqsO4sv

  10. Johnny Phillip Morris

    But what can we expect of local, military- trained “law enforcement-“- add a bunch of hot-headed Cubans to the mix– when the POTUS and his posse at the State Department and the Pentagon are engaged in extra- judicial executions in Pakistan, Yemen and now Libya.

  11. Johnny Phillip Morris

    That should read, “The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids In America.

    A Freudian slip.

  12. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    More “law officers” are arming themselves with M-4s. Present policy is to keep the fully autos in the locked trunk of their vehicles.

    Why is all this necessary?

  13. Johnny Phillip Morris


    Haven’t you “seen the light?” Come back to the “backwoods.”

    …Critics like Joseph McNamara, who served as a police chief in both San Jose, California, and Kansas City, Missouri, worry that this trend, now driven by the war on terror in addition to the war on drugs, have caused police to lose sight of their role as keepers of the peace.

    “Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed,” McNamara wrote in a 2006 article for the Wall Street Journal. “An emphasis on ‘officer safety’ and paramilitary training pervades today’s policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn’t shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed.” Noting the considerable firepower police now carry, McNamara added, “Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.”

    In 2009, stimulus spending became another way to fund militarization, with police departments requesting federal cash for armored vehicles, SWAT armor, machine guns, surveillance drones, helicopters, and all manner of other tactical gear and equipment.

    Like McNamara, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper finds all of this troubling. “We needed local police to play a legitimate, continuing role in furthering homeland security back in 2001,” says Stamper, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “After all, the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place on specific police beats in specific police precincts. Instead, we got a 10-year campaign of increasing militarization, constitution-abusing tactics, needless violence and heartache as the police used federal funds, equipment, and training to ramp up the drug war. It’s just tragic.”


  14. Johnny Phillip Morris




    …“After all, the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place on specific police beats in specific police precincts. Instead, we got a 10-year campaign of increasing militarization, constitution-abusing tactics, needless violence and heartache as the police used federal funds, equipment, and training to ramp up the drug war. It’s just tragic.”…

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