A man is in custody in northern Mississippi after he shot and killed two children and held a third child at gunpoint, police say.
At approximately 2 a.m. Monday morning, deputies with the Coahoma County Sheriff's Office say they received a call about a child who had been shot at an apartment in Jonestown, Mississippi, in the northwestern corner of the state. An off-duty deputy heard the radio call and decided to respond. When he arrived at the scene, he met up with other deputies, and the team banded together to negotiate with a man who was then holding a child at gunpoint.
"Deputies were able to talk the subject into dropping his weapon and get the child to safety," the police report said. Police then arrested the suspect, later identified as 25-year-old Marquez Griffin.
Sadly, any relief that officers may have felt at neutralizing the threat against that child was short-lived. As they began to inspect the residence where the incident occurred, investigators found two young children — a 1-year-old girl named Averi Jones and an unnamed 9-year-old boy — who had recently been shot. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene, but Averi was raced to a nearby hospital, where she later died.
Averi's grandmother, Melrose Haile, shared her grief with FOX13: "That was my grandbaby. She was only a year and a half, and now she’s gone. It’s nothing in this world that can take this pain away. Nothing."
The detail that Haile then shared is devastating. Her daughter told Haile that Averi "was asleep" when Griffin supposedly "put a pillow over her head and shot her in her head."
Haile added that she believed Griffin had been a friend of her daughter. "She told me they were friends," she said. "And how could a friend do this to you?"
Police are just as perplexed as anyone about a possible motive for the horrendous crime. Griffin — a Mississippi native who until recently had been living in Arlington, Texas — has been charged with two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault. If he has any relationship with any of the victims, such a relationship has not yet been disclosed.
Owen Robinson, the pastor of New Life Church, arrived at the scene in hopes of providing some solace to the local community, and he voiced the question that so many people have asked.
"Why?" Robinson repeated. Jonestown is a "quiet place," he insisted, without "much going on."
The age and gender of the child held at gunpoint have not been reported. Whether the three children were related is likewise unclear. There have been no reports of the mother or father of any of the victims being at the scene during or after the crime.