A man who escaped from a Mississippi prison over the weekend is believed to have killed a priest before dying in a house fire amid a standoff with law enforcement Wednesday morning.
Dylan Arrington, 22, is allegedly the man at the center of the whirlwind events that left at least two people dead in the Magnolia state. The dizzying tale of violent misery involves numerous law enforcement agencies, crimes and allegations across Mississippi and state lines.
According to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, Arrington was one of four men who escaped from the Raymond Detention Center, a facility 15 miles west of Jackson, on Sunday morning. During a Monday news conference, Sheriff Tyree Jones said the quartet appeared to have made their way out through a breach in a cell and taken off the jail.
“A breach was discovered in the B-Pod,” HCSO said in a news release issued just before 3:30 a.m. that day. “A white Hinds County pickup truck has also been reported stolen.”
However, attention soon turned to a red pickup truck — and the fatal interaction that led to its theft and existing missing status.
Reverend Anthony Watts, the head priest of St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church in D’Lo, Mississippi, stopped to help a man who had crashed his motorcycle on Interstate 55 Monday night, according to Jackson Police Chief James E. Davis. However, for his Good Samaritan act, Watts was repaid by being shot several times. The assailant then stole his maroon 2011 Dodge Ram 1500, according to HCSO.
“Based on information gathered from investigators, the suspect … fits the description of 22-year-old Dylan Arrington,” Davis said in comments reported by CBS News.
Watts died at the scene.
Those who knew Watts mourned his passing.
“We are all in one moment of grief, but we know that God is in control,” said the Rev. Carl Burton, associate pastor at St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, in comments reported by Jackson-based CBS affiliate WJTV. “We throw all our worries on him because he cares about everything we have to go through, we have to deal with, even in this.”
“Rev. Watts was someone who loved everyone,” parishioner Vivan Ross told the station. “He didn’t meet a stranger. He would help you, do anything he could for you. He just loved everybody and we loved him.”
“We are asking residents of the Braxton, Harrisville and Old Pearl area to be aware of their surroundings and keep their house and vehicle doors locked,” the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that includes an updated photo of Arrington and another picture of the pickup. “Sources have named Arrington as a suspect in the murder and armed carjacking of the Rev. Anthony Watts of Magee.”
The Tuesday evening post by SSCO identified Arrington as having “known ties to Simpson County.” But later that night, the wanted man is believed to have reached Leake County, an hour to the north, and the statewide search focused its efforts there.
Leake County Sheriff Randy Atkinson says Arrington likely died in a house fire on Conway Road after a shootout early Wednesday morning, according to Jackson-based NBC affiliate WLBT.
“The fire was pretty big and it caused a lot of damage,” Jones, who was at the scene, told the station. “As you can also see, we believe there was someone inside the home at the time the fire started. We can also confirm that at the time the fire started, there was an exchange of fire.”
Authorities are reportedly unsure how the fire started.
“Basically, one of the times he shot from the residence when he shot the window,” Atkinson told WLBT. “And it started to smoke from that particular part of the house, and I guess it just came up and spread throughout the residence.”
One member of law enforcement was shot during the fight, the sheriff said, but is recovering and “doing well.”
The other three wanted men have been identified as Casey Grayson, Corey Harrison and Jerry Raynes. At least one of those men is now believed to be in Texas, according to Hinds County officials.
Authorities say the pastor’s truck has not yet been located, while the Hinds County truck has since been located.
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