Attempted killing of Alabama officer  highlights problems with justice system


A Mississippi man was charged in a shooting that injured an Alabama police officer who was responding to a complaint about an armed man, authorities said.

Devonte Lavon Farmer, 19, was being held on attempted murder charges in the confrontation, which occurred at an apartment complex in Tuscaloosa.

Tuscaloosa police said an officer, whose name was not released, was shot in his bulletproof vest while answering a call about an armed man on Monday afternoon. The vest saved the officer’s life, but the officer still suffered bruised bruised ribs.

“I began to do a little checking to see his connection with Mississippi and I found our Mr. Farmer was currently on paper with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC),” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. “He had failed to report and follow through with conditions of his probation. He had not reported since September of last year.”

Farmer, MDOC ID Number: 228578, had been sentenced to three years with a tentative release date of March 11, 2023, but was moved to Central Mississippi House Arrest on March 27, 2020.

“What should happen is an individual, who is convicted of a felony, either serves time, gets out early and they are put on probation. Sometimes they don’t serve anytime,” Johnson said. “They are just sentenced to probation. During that probation there are stipulations and rules the individual has to adhere to. You have to report. You might have to do drug tests. You can’t violate any state or Federal laws.”

News outlets reported a second officer was treated for a minor injury. Police exchanged gunfire with a suspect, who suffered a hand wound and surrendered more than an hour later after hiding from police in or near a lake on a golf course at the apartments.

Macon Police Department Assistant Chief Douglas Triplett said Farmer is also wanted for four counts of aggravated assault and two counts of malicious mischief for a December shooting in an apartment complex in Macon, during which Farmer allegedly shot at four people, three of whom were juveniles. He also damaged cars in the parking lot.

Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton confirmed Farmer is also wanted for a December shooting in Columbus during which an individual was injured and taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle.

“There should have been a warrant issued for his (Farmer) arrest. He should have been entered on the NCIC. If that had happened, that officer, who was shot would have some idea about this individual,” Johnson said.

Court records weren’t available to show whether Farmer had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. Authorities said the man was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon in Noxubee County, Mississippi.

“We deal with this everyday. This is just one incident that came up. Our state legislation are still pushing for criminal justice reform,” Johnson said. “This is a prime example of why it’s not working for the victims. It’s not going to work for the victims. The system already has too many loopholes in it, and they are wanting to create more.”

Farmer is in custody in Tuscaloosa on $300,000 bond.

“I’m not throwing blame on anyone. I know the MDOC probation officers are loaded to the hilt,” Johnson added.

At last count, there were nearly 400 individuals on parole from the Mississippi Department of Corrections in Lee County. There are between three to four probation officers overseeing all of these Lee County parolees.

On Jan. 7, 2021, Rep. Bennie Thompson said he would seek a federal investigation into ‘ongoing failures’ within MDOC.

“I will be requesting that the U.S. Attorney General launch an investigation into the ongoing failures in safety, security, health, and environmental standards within the Mississippi Department of Corrections,” Thompson tweeted. “This is unacceptable.”

One of the problems within the MDOC is low pay for jobs which can be dangerous.

“In my meetings with Mr. (Burl) Cain, it is obvious to me that we are undercompensating our corrections officers,” Delbert Hosemann told the Jackson Free Press in an interview. “That unfortunately has been habitual in several different (areas) of Mississippi. I think it's time for Mississippians to look at what we're going to do for compensation for people ... doing work for the state, so that they at least have a meaningful job that's not below the poverty rate.”

“We have over 1,000 employees working full time for the State of Mississippi whose gross salary is less than $20,000,” Hosemann said in early February.

“That is not economically feasible ... We have thousands of open positions in state government. Why is that? We can't compete with a growing and burgeoning economy in Mississippi. They can get a better job.”

Publisher’s note: Clark was assisted by the Associated Press of Mississippi and Alabama to complete this article.

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