Shooting suspects, victim had been exchanging texts: police

Staff Writer

Text message exchanges among suspected shooters, a shooting victim and his friend didn’t suggest the meeting would lead to violence, but investigators still aren’t sure if it was a set up or just turned into gun fire, West Point Police say.

Meanwhile, police aren’t sure witness statements concerning a third suspect are true as the investigation into Monday evening’s brazen shooting in Marshall Park continue.

The victim in the shooting, 27-year-old Demontae Cantrell, remains in stable condition at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo where he was airlifted following the shooting. He was shot in the left leg and right side of the head at close range with a 9 mm handgun.

Two suspects, 40-year-old Jason Lionel Dean, and his former stepson, 22-year-old Lacequiu (Quincy) Darmar Starks, remain in the Clay County Jail on $2 million bonds.

Starks turned himself in just before 9 p.m. Monday, about three hours after the shooting near the archway entrance to the park. Dean was picked up Tuesday at Paccar where he worked.

Devryn Thomas, the 27-year-old who was sitting in her Malibu when it was rammed by Dean’s truck, was shaken up but not injured.

“We’re continuing to talk to everyone, collect and analyze evidence and go over everyone’s story,” Police Chief Avery Cook said Wednesday afternoon. “I know some said there was a third person there, but we aren’t sure of that now. That’s part of the investigation.”

Dean also has denied owning a pickup truck, but police have found the ownership and sales papers indicating he does. They haven’t found the truck yet, though.

As for the motive, police still think it has to do with some form of payback or dispute over an earlier incident.

“It looks like they were mad about something that happened. Don’t know if I’d call it revenge. But they had been texting each other, it’s something that had been brewing. We were aware of a little of it but not to the extent that it developed,” Cook stated.

“The texts don’t indicate there was supposed to be any kind of fight, they were just meeting. That’s just where they happened to agree on. We’re still piecing together the exact circumstances of the shooting,” the chief added.

While they still are collecting evidence, detectives think Dean may have been the shooter and that Starks arrived moments after Dean allegedly rammed Thomas’ Malibu, prompting Thomas and Cantrell to jump out of the car.

No gun had been found as of Wednesday afternoon. Two 9 mm shell casings were found at the scene.

The shooting has prompted discussions about increased park security, but Cook said he’s not panicking yet.

“This was a one-time random thing. We haven’t had any calls of fights or disturbances over there in awhile, just a loud music call every once in a while,” Cook said of what normally is a quiet neighborhood with homes bordering the park to the east and north.

The department regularly patrols it and other city parks and pays attention to loitering and anything that looks out of place.

Mayor Robbie Robinson said Wednesday they’ve discussed more patrols just to reassure park users, especially with playgrounds nearby. The idea of surveillance cameras may come up but aren’t a major priority “at this moment,” Robinson said, noting the city has improved lighting and made other changes at Marshall and other parks to make them more friendly to night-time users and more secure.