HAZLEHURST, MS – Police officers often experience heartbreaking and tragic events, but nothing could have prepared a Mississippi officer for the horror experienced after responding to a shooting January 2 to discover the victim to be her son.
About 2 a.m. Sunday morning, Hazlehurst Police Officer Laquandia Cooley, 42, responded to a shooting on Larkin Street after a caller reported a body lying in the street. When she arrived on scene, she discovered the victim was her oldest son, 22-year-old Charles Stewart Jr.
In an interview with local news outlet WLBT, Officer Cooley told her horrific story:
“We initially responded to the call, not knowing when I made it over there, the person was going to be my son that was laying there.”
Stewart had been shot in the head. He was dead before she arrived. She continued:
“As we get out, I look(ed) and I was like, ‘This is my son, this is my son.’ So, I literally just go into a breakdown…Like, why? Who would do this to my son?
“I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing. I was seeing my own son laying there on the ground dead. It was pretty much a panic. It was just, it was too much.”
Cooley then called her son’s father, Charles Stewart, telling him, ‘Someone killed our baby.’
Charles recalled his son as being a good person:
“It’s traumatizing for the whole family. We’re just trying to cope day to day. Just trying to figure out why this happened and who could have did (sic) this.”
“As we get out, I look and I was like, ‘This is my son, this is my son.’ So, I literally just go into a breakdown, you know? Like, why? Who would do this to my son?” https://t.co/VfQp4fhL5A
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution (@ajc) January 6, 2022
Hazlehurst Police Chief Darian Murray said the homicide investigation will be handed over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation because it involves an officer’s family member.
There have been no arrests announced to date.
Destinequa Hilliard, the sister of the victim, posted a Facebook comment lamenting the loss of her brother:
“I’m lost. How can anybody live after losing a sibling? I’m trying to be the strong one, but I’m getting weak. I’ll never be able to see my brother again. Whoever did this is wrong. Why, lord, why.”
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Hero officer gets shot in the gut, still takes out active shooter who already killed five people
January 1, 20222
LAKEWOOD, CO – An agent with the Lakewood Police Department has been named for her heroic actions that led to stopping an active shooting on December 27th.
The Lakewood Police Department has proudly identified Police Agent Ashley Ferris as the officer who stopped the active shooter, despite her having been shot in the abdomen.
Ferris remains in the hospital after having undergone one surgery and possibly in need of more.
The Lakewood Police Department released a statement on Facebook, noting Ferris’ identity and informing the public that she and her family are asking for privacy while she heals.
On Facebook, Lakewood Chief of Police Dan McCasky noted:
“All of us at the Lakewood Police Department are incredibly proud of Agent Ferris and the bravery shown by her and her fellow law enforcement officers during this active shooter situation.
The entire Lakewood Police family will be here to support Agent Ferris and her family as she embarks on this recovery process.
Our hearts are incredibly heavy with the loss of life and injuries suffered by others during this rampage.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cardenas, Gunn-Maldonado, Scofield, Steck and Swinyard families, as well as the families of those injured.”
UPDATE: Lakewood Police Agent Ashley Ferris is the law enforcement officer who shot and killed the crime spree suspect on Monday.
— Kelly Reinke (@KellyReinkeTV) December 30, 2021
On December 27th, Ferris was among many responding officers to a series of active shootings that were perpetuated by Lyndon James McLeod. According to the Lakewood Police Department:
“After shooting and killing 38-year-old Danny Schofield at the Lucky 13 tattoo shop, the 47-year-old male suspect [McLeod] traveled to the Belmar shopping area where he gunned down 28-year-old Sarah Steck as she worked at the Hyatt House.
At several points during this situation, the suspect exchanged gunfire with Lakewood and Denver Police. From there, the shooter headed to the area of Alaska and Vance when he encountered Lakewood Police Agent Ashley Ferris.
Agent Ferris ordered him to drop his weapon as he approached her. The suspect ignored her commands and shot Agent Ferris, striking her in the abdomen. Agent Ferris, shot and wounded on the ground, was able to return fire on the suspect.
The suspect was shot by Agent Ferris and died on the scene. If not for the heroic efforts of Agent Ferris and other law enforcement, this incredibly violent tragedy could have been even worse.”
Democrat Colorado Governor Jared Polis weighed in on the tragedy and the heroism displayed by Ferris. He wrote on Twitter:
“Thanks to the bravery of Lakewood Police Officer Agent Ashley Ferris, more lives were not lost during that tragic day in our state. Coloradans are grateful for her heroic actions and wish Agent Ferris a speedy recovery.”
Thanks to the bravery of Lakewood Police Officer Agent Ashley Ferris, more lives were not lost during that tragic day in our state. Coloradans are grateful for her heroic actions and wish Agent Ferris a speedy recovery: https://t.co/LPjlpNtxmR
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) December 30, 2021
A GoFundMe account has been established to help Ferris with housing and medical expenses while she undergoes treatment for the injuries she received during the shooting. The post states:
“Zach and Cody here, help us raise money for our sister in blue, Ashley.
Ashley was involved in an Officer Involved Shooting. She is currently recovery at the Hospital and will have a long road ahead of her.
Every donation will help ease any medical, pet, and housing expenses she will have in the future. We very much appreciate every donation.”
#BREAKING: Lakewood Police have identified Agent Ashley Ferris as the one who shot & killed the gunman after Monday's deadly crime spree. She's recovering after surgery. Here's a statement from police & how you can help the five victims: https://t.co/uJkjQfoBVU
— Dago Cordova (@dago_deportes) December 30, 2021
This is far from the first time that Ferris is being recognized for her heroic actions as a police officer.
In 2020, Ferris received a life-saving award with fellow Officers Brenna Conway and Andres Evans for performing CPR as a woman had stopped breathing on the roadway.
Ferris and the other officers were able to revive the woman who was able to return to her family after a hospital stay. The award said:
“Agent Evans, Agent Conway, and Agent Ferris had you not responded quickly, with an accurate diagnosis and lifesaving measures, the woman would have likely died at the scene.”
The man is also suspected of committing a series of violent crimes after he allegedly killed the deputy.
Police reported that a man from Kentucky has been arrested and charged with the shooting death of Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Riley.
The suspect in the case, identified as Ray Tate, allegedly led police through two different states as he fled apprehension.
Tate’s attempt at evading law enforcement started when Deputy Riley stopped out to help a motorist on the side of I-64 near Mill Shoals around 5 am.
Another law enforcement officer who heard Deputy Riley checking out with the motorist responded to assist. When he arrived on the scene, Deputy Riley’s vehicle was missing, and he found the slain officer on the ground.
Detectives immediately started their manhunt for Tate which initially led them to a QuikTrip convenience store in St. Peters. A man at this convenience store claimed that Tate somehow took him hostage and forced him to drive to this location in his semi-truck.
After Tate allegedly let the driver of the semi-truck go, he got into a different vehicle and made it to O’Fallon, Missouri.
Police noted afterward they were able to spot him on police surveillance video driving a white Nissan Titan truck with Missouri plates.
After he was allegedly spotted on police surveillance video, Illinois State Police reported that Tate went on a series of different criminal escapades including a “series” of carjackings, shootings, and robberies in the state of Missouri.
After the crime spree in that state, Tate allegedly made his way back to Illinois after kidnapping another person in a stolen vehicle.
Police reported that Tate broke into a residence in the City of Carlyle which is in Clinton County. Once inside the home, Tate allegedly took the homeowner and another person hostage as police closed in.
The Illinois State Police activated their SWAT team which responded to and entered the home just before 2 pm and was able to take Tate into custody. Thankfully, no one else was injured in the standoff.
After Tate’s arrest, Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly issued a written statement in which he acknowledged all of the law enforcement officer’s efforts at locating and arresting the alleged cop killer. He said:
“On behalf of the Illinois State Police, I extend my heartfelt condolences to Wayne County Deputy Sean Riley’s family, friends, and brothers and sisters at the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
Once again, the Illinois State Police has safely apprehended an alleged cop killer with exceptional professionalism, patience and persistence standing side by side with all Illinois law enforcement through another dark and difficult moment.
Mercifully, this incident was concluded with no further harm to first responders, and this defendant will now face justice.”
Democrat Illinois Governor JB Pritzker took to Twitter to express his condolences:
“Sending my deepest condolences to the family of Deputy Sean Riley and the entire Wayne County community. Deputy Riley bravely protected his fellow neighbors and our state will honor his memory.”
Melissa Doss, a spokeswoman for the St. Peters Police Department also weighed in on the tragic loss of the deputy just days after Christmas. Doss said:
“He [Riley] was on a call that many of us go on several times a day, a motorist assist. It’s not something that you’re expecting to be assaulted or lose your life over. So, our hearts are with Wayne County Deputy Sheriff’s Department and the deputy’s family.”
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