The Tupelo High School community lost one of its brightest lights last week. What began as a post on Facebook ended on a dark city street where 17-year-old Tiara Dancer was officially pronounced dead from a gunshot.
By all accounts, the Tupelo High School senior who graduated early in December was an innocent bystander in the altercation in the 3300 block of Meadow Drive in the Haven Acres area of south Tupelo.
The shooting occurred at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, January 28. Another unidentified gunshot victim, an 18-year-old male, was treated and released from the hospital that night; his wound was reported to be non-life threatening.
Capt. Charles McDougald, public information officer for the Tupelo Police Department, said a suspect – 19-year-old Jacoby O’Neal of Belden – was arrested and charged with second degree murder less than 24 hours after the shooting. McDougald said O’Neal appeared in City Court last Thursday, January 30, for a bond hearing. Bond was denied. O’Neal could face life in prison if he is convicted for the offense.
A memorial prayer gathering was held last Friday morning at Tupelo High School in remembrance of Dancer. Family and friends met to mourn her passing and remember her life. On Wednesday, Tupelo High School senior counselor Manessa Hadley remembered Dancer as a wonderful personality at the school.
“She was so excited about graduating,” said Hadley and explained that although the teenager had graduated early, she still planned to walk in May’s graduation ceremony and attend Itawamba Community College. “She had an infectious smile and a great sense of humor. She was so funny. “Students respected and loved Tiara.”
Hadley said the teen’s death hit her hard: “I was devastated. It was like a dagger through my heart.”
According to McDougald, numerous shots were fired during what had begun as a fistfight since shell casings were found in the area. Dancer had watched the fight along with as many as 50 other people.
One report said a Facebook post prompted the fight, but details of that post have not been made public. McDougald said a police request on social media for information about the shooting resulted in tips as to the identity of the shooter and O’Neal’s subsequent arrest. He said the case is still under investigation but as of Tuesday no other arrests were pending; as of Wednesday, O’Neal remained in the Lee County Jail.