Meridian Star

April 26, 2014

Standoff comes to violent end

Sollie: ‘Clear example of suicide by cop’

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     A standoff between law enforcement officers and a wanted man holed up in a Meridian house ended shortly after 12:30 p.m. Friday when the man ran outside the home, opened fire and was fatally shot by law enforcement officers.

    Emmanuel Wooten was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting that was the culmination of a three hour standoff with law enforcement officers from three agencies.

    Wooten died of multiple gunshot wounds, Lauderdale County Coroner Clayton Cobler said.

    A woman inside the home with Wooten, identified as his girlfriend, was released unharmed shortly before Wooten came out shooting. Law enforcement officers shot tear gas into the house at about 12:20 p.m. and shortly afterwards Wooten ran out of the house and began firing before he was shot down.

    Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said Wooten didn't give authorities any options after negotiations were unsuccessful.

    "When he released her we had the sense that the end, no matter how Wooten wanted it to go, was imminent," Sollie said. "He knew he was surrounded. This was all his choice."

    "Immediately after he released his hostage we interviewed her to try and get a sense of what he was thinking," Sollie said. "What we heard was not encouraging. This was as clear of an example of suicide by cop as I've ever seen."

    With only Wooten left in the wood frame home located at 1929 Eighth Avenue, and a crowd of onlookers from the area neighborhood looking on from three blocks away, Sollie said the green light was given to the members of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department SWAT team who had been in place covering the house for more than an hour.

    Scores of other officers from the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Meridian Police Department had the home completely surrounded.

    At about 12:35 p.m., one of the SWAT team members threw a canister of tear gas through a side window hoping to get Wooten to give up. Instead, Sollie said Wooten flung the front door open and before exiting the home fired one shot toward a deputy who was hunkered down behind a car directly in front and across the street from the home.

    He then ran out the doorway shooting two more times toward the SWAT team who a split second later released a fusillade of bullets. Mortally wounded, Wooten dropped his handgun and fell into the street where he was immediately swarmed by at least two dozen officers.

    "He had made up his mind and came out shooting," Sollie said. "The only people who returned fire were the members of the SWAT team. No one else fired a shot."

    As the cries and shouts echoed down the avenue from the crowd who had for hours gathered to watch the events unfold, Wooten's gun was secured and the paramedics from Metro Ambulance rushed in to begin emergency treatment. Wooten was placed on a gurney, loaded into the back of an ambulance and rushed to a local hospital emergency room. Cobler said Wooten died at the hospital less than an hour after the shooting.

    Authorities said the home where Wooten was holed up belonged to a relative.

    The fatal shooting ended a manhunt of more than two weeks by law enforcement officers. Wooten was being sought for questioning in connection with the shooting of a 10-year-old girl during an armed robbery in Marion that reportedly occurred last week. The girl is recovering from her wound.

    Wooten was also the primary suspect in a shootout with LCSD deputies and agents with the East Mississippi Drug Task Force Wednesday in which he reportedly sustained a gunshot wound to the right shoulder. Sollie said a tip led authorities to the Meridian home shortly after 9 a.m. Friday.

    "Very soon after we arrived and surrounded the home, three people, I believe them to be relatives, were released," Sollie said. "We interviewed them and determined, based on that information, we needed to call in the SWAT team for further assistance."

    SWAT team members were also mobilized from the Meridian Police Department. Additional support came from the Meridian Fire Department, and the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency.

    On at least three different occasions, Maj. John Calhoun with the LCSD tried to talk Wooten out with a bullhorn. Calhoun repeatedly asked Wooten to release his hostage and to come out with his hands empty and raised over his head. Calhoun instructed Wooten to come to the front yard, lie down, and he wouldn't be hurt.

    "He forced us to take action," Sollie. "We had no choice."

    Sollie agreed that had Wooten forced the SWAT team to enter the home to try and root him out, one or more of the officers would have been hurt, and possibly killed because Wooten was, in Sollie's mind, determined to go out on his own terms.

    "It would have been nasty," Sollie said in considering a SWAT entry operation.

    No officers or bystanders were injured from the gunfire that erupted when Wooten exited the home. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations took over as the lead investigative agency following the shooting.