By Daniel Brunty
The Webster Progress-Times
With the city and surrounding areas still saddened by last week’s line-of-duty death of Eupora Police Department Officer Keith Crenshaw, more details have been released about the surrounding circumstances.
Crenshaw, an 18-year veteran officer with the EPD, was struck and killed by a fleeing suspect vehicle after laying spike strips in the road during a high-speed chase on Oct. 23. The pursuit resulted from an apparent attempted robbery at CB&S Bank on West Fox Avenue and the robbery of a payday loan business in Grenada earlier that morning.
Eupora Police Chief Gregg Hunter gave a recap of the events surrounding the attempted bank robbery.
“It was about 7:56 that morning when we received the call,” Hunter said. “Immediately I and Officer (Donald) Card responded to the location. Once we got there, we determined two suspects had attempted to enter the bank. They were wearing masks and black hooded clothing. Immediately after that we put out an area alert, or BOLO (be on the lookout), for the two suspects and a vehicle description.” The two men and a driver were reported to have fled the scene in a black Nissan Altima.
“The suspects never entered the bank. The door was locked. They never made entry,” said Hunter. “Once they realized the door was locked, they fled the scene. It was not long before we got a call that there had been a robbery in Grenada, and they matched the description of the BOLO we had put out.”
According to a report from the Grenada Star, Capt. George Douglas of the Grenada Police Department informed the newspaper that a preliminary investigation had revealed that three males entered the Speedee Cash at highways 8 and 51 in Grenada shortly after 9 a.m. and demanded money. Also, a source at Speedee Cash informed the Grenada Star that the suspects held guns to the employees’ heads and made away with the contents of one cash drawer, totaling about $185. No one was hurt, the source said, and the encounter lasted less than a minute.
Sgt. Criss Turnipseed, public affairs officer with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Troop G, said a BOLO was issued for the Nissan containing the three suspects. The Nissan was then spotted in the Winona area, where it was followed east on U.S. 82 by Mississippi Highway Patrol troopers, who kept the vehicle under surveillance until support could arrive.
Two Webster County Sheriff’s Department cruisers were standing by to support on U.S. 82 near the Grady community. When the driver of the Nissan spotted them, the suspects attempted to flee.
The Nissan continued east on U.S. 82 for about 3 miles to the area where Crenshaw had deployed a spike strip, which was just west of the Eupora exit, and was waiting in the median. The vehicle attempted to avoid the spike strips and entered into the median, where it struck and killed Crenshaw about 10:15 a.m. The vehicle continued eastbound in the median until it struck a light pole.
One passenger in the car, Nathaniel Robinson, 22, was ejected and killed at the scene of the crash. The driver, Frank Levon Maye, 33, was airlifted to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, where he died the next morning as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.
The car’s third occupant, Brandon Johnson, 26, was transported by ambulance to NMMC-Eupora and later released to authorities. He is being held in the Grenada County jail on armed robbery charges, with additional charges pending.
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety gave Orlando, Fla., addresses for all three men; Johnson is formerly of Eupora.
The tragedies of last week’s events have brought the community together in hopes of healing each other’s sorrow. With an outpour of support from not only local factions, but on a nationwide level as well, the community hopes to start the process of healing soon.
The city of Eupora as well as its surrounding areas came together to honor and recognize the life of the officer and volunteer firefighter at his funeral service (see related article).
Services for Crenshaw, 52, were Sunday afternoon at First Baptist Church in Eupora. The services allowed for family, friends and the residents of Eupora to honor a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his community. A large number of law enforcement officials came to pay their respects to their fallen brother, who was the first officer to be killed in the line of duty in the city or county.
“I would like to say to everybody we need your prayers for Keith’s family,” Hunter said Monday. “It’s just a really tough time. Keith was a great officer, and he was a friend to everybody. He was certainly a protector to this community. He gave the ultimate sacrifice last Wednesday to protect the citizens of Eupora. He is a hero in my eyes. I am going to miss him, and it’s going to be hard.”
Eupora Fire Chief Richard Love also expressed his feelings regarding Crenshaw. “Eupora has lost a good man today (Oct. 23) doing what he loved to do. Not only was he an officer and a firefighter; he was also a good friend that took great pride in the community he has served for so long.”
Mayor Dan Burchfield thanked all those who had helped support the Crenshaw family and the city of Eupora during this trying and difficult time. “I would like to thank Sheriff Tim Mitchell and all the Webster County deputies for covering Officer Crenshaw’s shifts since this tragedy happened,” Burchfield said. “I would also like to thank Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and Starkville Police Chief (David) Lindley for sending over approximately 20 officers to help cover our shifts for our officers to be able to attend visitation, the funeral and needed healing time. I can’t say enough about the kindness that so many communities outside our own area have shown.
“We have received calls from our state delegation as well as our federal delegation asking if they could help. I want to say how proud I am to be mayor of our town when such a complete outpouring of support has been portrayed,” Burchfield said. “The amount of support shown to the family and our police department in town has been incredible. People from all over the state and all over the nation have called. It makes me very proud to say that I am from Eupora.”
The Eupora Board of Aldermen, during a recessed meeting on Oct. 24, authorized the establishment of memorial funds at CB&S and Regions banks on behalf of Crenshaw’s surviving family members. The city will work with the board attorney to determine how to disperse donations.
Also, Hunter expressed his gratitude to the Starkville Police Department and Webster County Sheriff’s Department, and an agent with the Mississippi Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau of Enforcement for covering shifts for the EPD during this hard and difficult time. The SPD also sent a peer counselor from within its department, according to the Starkville Daily News.
The attempted bank robbery and accident remain under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi Highway Patrol.