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"His character: top-notch": Slain deputy remembered after shooting rampage in Mississippi

Mississippi shooting rampage
Man accused of killing eight people in Miss. shooting spree 02:53

BROOKHAVEN, Miss. -- A Mississippi deputy killed in a shooting rampage had worked in Christian ministry before going into law enforcement, and liked doing puppet shows to deliver uplifting messages to children.

William Durr, 36, was responding to a domestic-violence call late Saturday when he was shot to death in Brookhaven, a south Mississippi city surrounded by pine trees and rolling green pastures. He was one of eight people killed in a shooting rampage at three different homes -- an outbreak of violence that has shaken the county of 34,500 residents.

Investigators said Willie Cory Godbolt, 35, will be charged with one count of capital murder and seven counts of first degree murder. Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said the charges could change as the investigation continues.

Authorities on Monday said Godbolt was related to or acquainted with all the victims except Durr.

William Durr, shown in this 2014 photo provided by The Daily Leader, died in the line of duty responding to a domestic-violence call on Sun., May 28, 2017, in Brookhaven, Miss. The Daily Leader

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Department has about 75 employees and is like a close-knit family, said Zach Harveston, who has worked as a dispatcher there for two years. Harveston said he was shaken by Durr's death.

"He loved to lead children to the good Lord," Harveston said. "He was just a natural-born servant of the good Lord here at the department and even in the church he served in."

Durr was married and had an 11-year-old son. His mother spoke briefly with the AP on Monday, saying that the family is still in distress.

"He was a good Christian man," Debbie Durr said at her rural home near Brookhaven. "He was a youth minister and a pastor before going into law enforcement."

Off duty, Durr also was a ventriloquist who took his puppets to schools and churches. Two weeks ago, Durr entertained preschoolers at Brookhaven Academy, a Christian school in town. The message he shared was that -- like fireflies -- people can use their inner light to help those around them.

"His character: top-notch," said Page Nelson, the school's elementary principal.

A Memorial Day ceremony on Monday started with a moment of silence for the fallen deputy, according to CBS affiliate WJTV.

"We have heroes among us in uniform every day, and they're called police officers, sheriff deputies, and peace officers," said Ken Powell, Army Veteran.

"He was loved by everybody," said Betty Johnson, a family friend. "He was a youth minister at one point in his life. He loved the Lord and was always an encourager to everybody."

"He will be so missed," Johnson added. "Not just with the department but with people that he knew. People will miss him."

On Sunday, Vincent Mitchell sat outside his little, yellow home and tried to make sense of how a family dispute led to a rampage that killed eight people, including the deputy who tried to keep them safe.

"I'm devastated. It don't seem like it's real," Mitchell said shortly after the arrest of Godbolt, his stepson-in-law. "Him and my stepdaughter, they've been going back and forth for a couple of years with that domestic violence."

Willie Cory Godbolt, 35, of Bogue Chitto, Mississippi is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on May 28, 2017.  Mississippi Department of Public Safety/Handout via Reuters

Godbolt showed up at Mitchell's home in the southern Mississippi town of Bogue Chitto shortly before midnight Saturday to demand that his estranged wife give up their two children. She and the kids had been staying with them for about three weeks, Mitchell told AP.

"He'd come to get his kids. The deputy was called," and asked him to leave, and it seemed like Godbolt would comply at first, Mitchell said.

"He acted like, motioned like, he was fixing to go. Then he reached in his back pocket and grabbed a gun," Mitchell said. "He just started shooting everything."

Mitchell said he escaped along with Godbolt's wife, but Mitchell's wife, her sister and one of the wife's daughters were killed. Authorities said Godbolt fled and killed four more people at two other homes.

Godbolt gave his own account of what happened in an interview with The Clarion-Ledger as he sat with his hands cuffed behind his back on the side of a road in Brookhaven, about 70 miles south of Jackson.

"I was having a conversation with her stepdaddy and her mama and her, my wife, about me taking my children home," he said. "Somebody called the officer, people that didn't even live at the house. That's what they do. They intervene."

"They cost him his life," he said, apparently referring to Durr. "I'm sorry."

"My pain wasn't designed for him. He was just there," Godbolt said. "I ain't fit to live, not after what I done."

At least seven hours elapsed between the first shootings and Godbolt's arrest near the final crime scene, in a subdivision of ranch houses.

Godbolt said he hadn't planned to be captured alive.

"My intentions was to have God kill me. I ran out of bullets," he said. "Suicide by cop was my intention."

While many are stunned by the heinous act of violence, the people closest to the situation say they're not shocked by Godbolt's outrage, according to CBS affiliate WJTV.

Some people called Godbolt a "bully" and "a ticking time bomb," according to the station.

"He's the face of evil," one resident told WJTV. "I think he come in to kill everybody we just didn't see it coming."

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation identified some of those killed as: Barbara Mitchell, 55; Brenda May, 53; Tocarra May, 35; Ferral Burage, 45; and Shelia Burage, 46. The parents of Austin Edwards, 11, and Jordan Blackwell, 18, identified their sons as the other people killed.

Godbolt remained hospitalized in good condition for a gunshot wound Monday in Jackson, and could make a court appearance Tuesday in Brookhaven. It wasn't clear who shot him.

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