Article Comment 

Officers accused of bizarre behavior at military park


Dispatch Staff Writers



Four Columbus police officers on a training visit to Vicksburg are being accused of riding around the Vicksburg National Military Park in a Columbus police cruiser, playing loud music and flashing their lights and sirens at passersby, among other behavior. 


According to a park visitor who witnessed the Tuesday afternoon incident, the foursome were riding around the park in the marked police cruiser, flashing the car''s blue lights and sounding the siren at passersby. Two of the officers were riding in the trunk, seated with the trunk open. 


"I did call the (park) ranger," said the visitor, who wished to remain unidentified. "The ranger showed up and tried to stop them." 


According to the park visitor, one female ranger responded to the scene in an attempt to stop the police car, but the officers refused to pull over. 


"It''s scary when you have older people, tourists coming through the military park, and here you have people who are supposed to be responsible, authoritative people," he said. 


"It''s a nice, quiet park. It''s a beautiful place, and the people of Warren County respect it," he added. 


Although much information regarding the incident is pending a Columbus Police Department investigation, CPD Chief Joseph St. John confirmed witnesses in the park reported loud music coming from the police cruiser and the officers using the vehicle''s flashers to deter park visitors from approaching it. 


However, St. John added, much about the incident remains unknown. 


"Honestly, there is just so much about this that we don''t know right now," St. John said Wednesday. "I don''t want to sound cryptic or anything with my details, but I''d rather wait and make sure I know exactly what happened before I release anything to the newspaper, especially if anything I said now turned out to be false later." 


"I''m hoping that in the next few days, we will be able to release more about this, but I just want to make sure I get the whole story first," St. John added. 


Although St. John said no criminal activity was reported in the incident, he said firm action would be taken against the officers if they were found guilty of any wrongdoing. 


"I can assure you there was no criminal activity involved in this incident. If there was, I would have been the first to tell you about it," said St. John. "I can also promise you that if any of our officers did anything wrong, we are going to do something about it." 


The four officers were in Vicksburg for a three-day field sobriety training course sponsored by Sobriety Trained Officers Representing Mississippi, or S.T.O.R.M. 


Though St. John would not reveal the identities of the officers involved in the incident, the Columbus City Council in April approved the training trip, including a vehicle and expenses, for Cpl. Spence Wallingford and officers Wade Beard, Heath Beard and Robert Walker. 


An apology to the supervising park ranger and to the citizens of Vicksburg was to be issued following the officers'' departure from the conference Wednesday, S.T.O.R.M. Chairman Michael D. Vick said in a statement. 


"S.T.O.R.M. does not condone or tolerate any type of disrespectful behavior by its members," Vick said in a statement. "Whether any action will be taken will be at the discretion of the individual agencies and their disciplinary boards." 


For the park patron who reported the incident and who regularly runs at the military park, the incident struck a personal chord. 


"I have a daughter who went to The W, and it just made me think," he said. "If there was an incident there, these are the people who are supposed to be protecting her." 


Because the military park is under the jurisdiction of park rangers employed by the National Park Service, neither Vicksburg nor Warren County law enforcement agencies were involved in the incident. Vick said alcohol was not involved in the matter. 




This story contains reporting from Danny Barrett Jr., of the Vicksburg Post.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Chris commented at 5/7/2009 12:49:00 PM:

We have what appears to be a mayor who uses the PD as his own private mercenaries and now this. Hope these guys don't get canned while the "hit squad" stays employed!


Article Comment Maria commented at 5/7/2009 3:12:00 PM:

And I wondered why outstanding arrest warrants haven't been issued from that long list in the newspaper back in February!! No wonder we have a gang and drug problem...


Article Comment Kim commented at 5/7/2009 3:41:00 PM:

Stupid! Thats the only way to explain it. How dare these "officers" behave in such a way at a Military Park. No wonder the people in Columbus have no respect for the police if they have so little respect for others. babbling idiots comes to mind. Oh but they will get away with a slap on the hand and who knows whats next for dumb, dumber & dumbest!!! I hope the citizens in Columbus take a real close look at this & other "incidents" that have involved the CPD and take inventory of how safe they truely are. This is borderline idiotic


Article Comment Bill commented at 5/7/2009 3:56:00 PM:

And we give these Idiots Guns.


Article Comment Andrew commented at 5/7/2009 4:52:00 PM:

I know all of these officers personally and I don't believe a word any of those people say. These guys are the best of the best in my opinion and they get out there on the streets to protect the citizens of Columbus every night. People really ought to think about what they say when they say it because then they would realize who the real idiot is!!!!


Article Comment Ro commented at 5/7/2009 5:02:00 PM:

My mother always said, "People may think you are dumb and stupid, but you don't have to show them they are right.


Article Comment Mr. Congeniality commented at 5/7/2009 9:34:00 PM:

Hello from Vicksburg. Please keep your trash in Columbus. I am sure you have a fine town, but we do not need your garbage here, especially on such hallowed ground. BTW Andrew--I personally know the VNMP officer who handled this incident, and she is far better then any of your "friends."


Article Comment LD commented at 5/8/2009 4:53:00 AM:

I find this to be very juvenile in character if all of this is true. How can you expect the people to respect and depend on you for protection when this type of behavior is evident? I'm a life long Columbus resident working as a contractor in Kuwait and this is very sad!


Article Comment Freddy commented at 5/8/2009 9:48:00 AM:

Mr. Congeniality,

You consider the place of the Vicksburg Massacre of 1874 hollowed ground? Give me a break. The fingers outnumber the teeth in Vicksburg.


Article Comment adguy commented at 5/8/2009 11:11:00 AM:

Freddy in Possum Town,

Do your homework before you comment on something you obviously know nothing about.
The Siege of Vicksburg was in 1863.
No "Massacre" here that I know of?
4,835 Union casualties compared to 3,202 Confederate.
May I educate you?


Article Comment V''burg Native commented at 5/8/2009 11:48:00 AM:

Let me get this straight CPD Chief is quoted as saying "St. John said no criminal activity was reported in the incident" but yet in the article there is this line "According to the park visitor, one female ranger responded to the scene in an attempt to stop the police car, but the officers refused to pull over". Rufusing to stop for a federal officer is a crime, isn't it????


Article Comment I Was There commented at 5/8/2009 12:05:00 PM:

As a visitor to the Vicksburg National Military Park that day; I can assure you the newspaper article is pretty accurate. I did observe these officers actions in the park that day and I definately would not want them representing my city. The only innacurracy i see is that it was 3 men and 1 woman.


Article Comment Freddy commented at 5/8/2009 1:45:00 PM:


Wikipedia is not a credible source since it can be edited by anyone, but since you want to use that source, try looking at :,_Mississippi

I am quite certain I know my history. I wasn't talking about a Civil War battle obviously since the date I listed was 1874, 9 years after the wars end.

There ARE other history lessons past the 10th grade you know.


Article Comment Freddy commented at 5/8/2009 1:58:00 PM:

AND I am not from "Possum Town"


Article Comment Mr. Congeniality commented at 5/8/2009 2:04:00 PM:

"Wikipedia is not a credible source..."
Is this revisionist history?
What exactly is your point?
The Siege of Vicksburg did not happen?
VNMP commemorates the Vicksburg Massacre of 1874?
Vicksburg National Military Park is not hallowed ground?
Or are you simply trying to find justification for four CPD officers to be acting like idiots?
I really don't understand what you are getting at, but the depths of your stupidity is amazing.


Article Comment adguy commented at 5/8/2009 2:11:00 PM:


The 1874 incident has nothing to do with the Military Park. It is a Civil War Park which IS considered hallowed ground. There are Thousands of soldiers buried there from both sides of the war.

Come to Vicksburg and lets compare teeth.


Article Comment adguy commented at 5/8/2009 2:18:00 PM:


The 1874 incident has nothing to do with the Military Park. It is a Civil War Park which IS considered hallowed ground. There are Thousands of soldiers buried there from both sides of the war.

Come to Vicksburg and lets compare teeth.


Article Comment I Was There commented at 5/8/2009 3:38:00 PM:

One point that sums the entire story up for me; and also tells me what the end result will be (nothing) is the fact that a Federal Park Ranger notified Columbus officials while the events were going on in the park and apparently not one Columbus official made the 3 hour drive to check it out for themselves.


Article Comment Hiding something? commented at 5/8/2009 4:48:00 PM:

This is the first thing anyone has said about a woman being involved in the matter, other than the Park Ranger that was trying to stop the CPD officers. Was the woman in the car with the 3 CPD officers? I wonder if the entire and true story will actually be printed in the Dispatch, or if it will be hidden from everyone. Maybe the Dispatch will not even be told the true story behind what happened at the Military Park.
I have to agree that with the people from Vicksburg about the park. I have been there and it is a beautiful place and it is considered hallow ground. The officers should have shown some respect.


Article Comment kay commented at 5/8/2009 8:41:00 PM:

Does this surprise I witnessed an accident last year where a man from Chicago was on his way down to see his son in the hospital, a military fireman who was badly burned. He was hit by someone who ended up running away from the scene.
It took at least 45 minutes for the cops to arrive after several calls and when they arrived all three of the witnesses, including me, smelled alcohol on the two officers. I felt so bad for this man and completely embarrassed! What a great welcome into our town!!!


Article Comment Just Wondering commented at 5/9/2009 8:46:00 PM:

The Chief stated that no laws were broken, so does that mean that the CPD no longer considers disturbing the peace, failure to obey an officer, and failure to stop for an officer breaking the law? Oh yeah, and I am sure that the officers in the trunk did not have on their seatbelts. When anyone has to go to court for tickets on these offenses just call in the Chief to testify that these are not breaking the law and therefore need to be thrown out.


Article Comment johnboy commented at 5/9/2009 10:30:00 PM:

look columbus we need to do something we need new cops and the city is getting bad none will wana come here and spend money or time and we will be that talk of the world fire them cops see if they like being without a job maybe then they will learn the word RESPECT.


Article Comment Tommy commented at 5/10/2009 2:40:00 PM:

Fire all four of them this is not hollywood!!


Article Comment Tommy commented at 5/10/2009 2:42:00 PM:

Fire all four of them this is not hollywood!!


Article Comment Tommy commented at 5/10/2009 2:42:00 PM:

Fire all four of them this is not hollywood!!


Article Comment Concerned commented at 5/11/2009 11:42:00 AM:

Have we stopped to think that all of these officers have a family and one might have actually brought their significant other with them? It is so funny to me that that all of these passer byers know so much more than even the woman that supposedly tried to pull them over and they did not stop. Oh that's right because they did stop or maybe its because they were already stopped and the lady just pulled up beside them. Wow how very little we actually know, but how quickly we won't to ruin these mens lives. These men who if you know them are very good officers, and to the man that knows the park ranger talk to her. Ask her what really happened before you judge our city and its employees.


Article Comment S.Williams commented at 5/12/2009 9:00:00 AM:

A few unprofessional,unethical policemen can destroy the respect and standards of a department. For the policemen that take their jobs seriously and are policemen for all the right reasons, shame on these few that make a mockery of their jobs. Our sheriff was recently arrested for stealing from the tax payers,giving out extreme bonuses and taking first class trips with employees to Las Vegas, where he was arrested. Citizens of Northwest Florida trusted him. With crime increasing, the CPD certainly can find better ways to spend their time. The US has an increasing crime rate. More and more innocent children are being abducted, drug dealers, people being shot at random. Maybe these policemen need to find other jobs. Tax payers deserve people that are doing what they are being paid to do, "serve and protect". Recently we had two police officers shot and killed during a domestic violence dispute. The crime is out there CPD but not in a military park.


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