By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – A Yalobusha County deputy was injured Friday morning in a shootout that ended with the death of a Missouri man and woman. Sheriff Lance Humphreys reported that Deputy Thomas West was hit by several pellets from a shotgun blast at point-blank range and is extremely lucky to be alive, adding that his bullet proof vest took some of the blast. West was transported in a private vehicle to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford where he was treated and released.
Another county deputy and a Water Valley Police officer were also involved in the shooting that occurred in a cotton field off of County Road 100 just outside Water Valley. District Attorney John Champion reported that the incident remains under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI), but added the officers involved acted “very, very heroically” in the shootout that involved a heavy exchange of gunshots. Authorities have released the name of the man as Robert J. Berube, age 41. The woman, identified as 24 year-old Jamie Dougan of Raytown, Mo., died several hours after the shooting at Regional One Health in Memphis, Tenn.
Humphreys said the incident started as a traffic stop on an ATV around 3 a.m. Friday morning. The ATV fled, but West located it shortly after daybreak in a cotton field after following tire tracks. As West approached the ATV, the man stood up from behind the four-wheeler and fired at him.
The sheriff said West was able to return fire in what became an intense shootout in the woods. Berube and Dougan were able to make it back to the four-wheeler and attempted to flee again, but it had been damaged during the volley and was inoperable.
“I had another deputy tell me it sounded like a war,” Humphreys said.
‘Minutes later the second deputy, Donald Wilson and Water Valley police officer Der-rick Yancy made it to the field to back up West. By this time the Missouri couple got in West’s cruiser that he had been forced to abandon when he was ambushed. The pair attempted to flee, driving past the officers. Humphreys said the officers disabled the car, shooting out all four tires and the engine and the Missouri man exited the vehicle.
“He refused to comply with the commands from the deputy and Water Valley officer,” Champion added about the situation. “He had no intention of being taken alive.”
Dougan was also hit in the exchange and was transported to the Memphis hospital where she died around 6:30 p.m. Friday.
After it was all over, Humphreys said West had strong words from the ordeal.
“He told me ‘sheriff that man was hunting me like a dog,’” Humphreys told the Herald and a WTVA reporter, explaining that every time West’s radio would go off, the man would fire at him through the woods. West was down to his last bullet when the two backup officers arrived.
The sheriff said the pump shotgun used by the man had an extended magazine, a flashlight and laser sights. He also said night vision goggles were discovered near the four-wheeler.
A Look At The Details
Humphreys said the initial attempt to stop the ATV occurred after a deputy observed the four-wheeler pulling a trailer around 3 a.m. near the intersection of Blackmur Drive and South Street inside the city limits.
The ATV driver fled and at that time, in addition to Berube and Dougan, there was also a third man, Jason Scates, also on the four-wheeler. The deputy gave chase and the ATV fled and turned into a creek on County Road 100. The sheriff said the deputy could hear them under the bridge and advised them to come out.
Minutes later the ATV drove back onto the road, without the trailer and attempted to run over the deputy, according to the sheriff. He got away but authorities arrested Scates, who remained under the bridge along with the unhooked trailer.
Scates, of Abbevillle, has been charged with possession of burglary tools.
“He gave us a little information, we were able to determine they were staying on Wood Street. During the investigation Friday morning, multiple stolen items were recovered when authorities checked out the house, including a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a flatbed truck stolen from Lafayette County, Missouri.
“The sheriff from up there called me and told me that his guys were involved in a high-speed chase involving the stolen truck. He ended up calling that chase off because it was getting dangerous,” Humphreys continued.
Meanwhile at daybreak Friday morning Yancy saw the ATV tracks and West picked up the trail of the ATV in a nearby cotton field, following the tracks across one field and to another. When he pulled up to the four-wheeler and got out, that’s when shots rang out.
Agents with MBI worked until mid-afternoon Friday collecting evidence from the scene in the ongoing investigation. As a routine procedure, the outside agency is in charge of the investigation because it is an officer-involved shooting.
Humphreys and Water Valley Police Chief A.J. Hernandez are also investigating what appears to be a theft ring that involves bringing stolen goods down from Missouri to sell.
Hernandez reported it appeared that Berube and Dougan came to Water Valley and were living in a tent behind a Wood Street residence for a week or more.
Both the chief and sheriff also said there is evidence that indicates methamphetamine use prior to the incident. Evidence recovered also included a list of what appears to be items in the area targeted for theft.
Humphreys noted that Berube has an extensive criminal history, including resisting arrest and felony charges. Most recently, Berube and Dougan were charged with possession of a controlled substance back in March in Missouri.
“From looking at Berube’s record, it appears that he had been released from a lengthy prison stint sometime before the March arrest,” the sheriff added.