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Police chief: Murder victim 'fired at for no reason;' suspect mistook firecrackers for gunfire (updated 4:57 p.m.)

 

Devin Mitchell (32) walks off the field after a game during the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State University in August. Mitchell, 16, was shot to death in the early-morning hours of New Year’s Day. Kim Murrell/Special to the Dispatch

Devin Mitchell (32) walks off the field after a game during the New Hope Jamboree at Mississippi State University in August. Mitchell, 16, was shot to death in the early-morning hours of New Year’s Day. Kim Murrell/Special to the Dispatch
Photo by: Courtesy Photo

 

Tavaris F. Collins

 

 

David Miller

 

WEST POINT -- Details of the murder of Starkville High School student Devin Mitchell have emerged.  

 

Mitchell, who was murdered early New Year's Day, was visiting relatives at Ridgewood Apartments on East Main Street when he was shot by Tavaris F. Collins, according to police.  

 

West Point Police Chief Tim Brinkley Tuesday said firecrackers were being fired in the area, and Collins fired at what he thought was "an assailant or assailants firing gunshots at him" from outside one of the apartments. 

 

"But there's no evidence to support the idea that any shots were fired by anyone but (Collins)," Brinkley said. "Devin did not have a gun; he may have been outside shooting fireworks. He was fired at for no reason." 

 

Collins, 31, fired multiple shots, one of which struck Mitchell, 16, in the head, Brinkley said. Officers responded to the apartment complex at 2:55 a.m., and Mitchell was airlifted to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo where he later died.  

 

Brinkley said Mitchell was not involved in any criminal activity and just happened to be outside the apartment when the shooting occurred. 

 

"It was a senseless, random act of violence that claimed that young man's life," Brinkley said. "It's a sad situation." 

 

Collins, who was arrested Sunday, is being held in Clay County jail on one count of murder and two counts of weapon possession by a convicted felon. Collins' bail is $2 million for the murder charge and $100,000 for each weapons charge.  

 

Collins originally faced a charge of capital murder, but the charge was reduced Tuesday by Clay County Municipal Court Judge Mark Cliett because it did not meet statutory requirements.  

 

The capital murder charge carried a sentence of life in prison and possibly the death penalty, Brinkley said. Collins still faces life in prison for the murder charge. 

 

Collins also had warrants from West Point for domestic violence and simple assault.  

 

Brinkley said Collins was not a resident at the complex. Collins told police he was there visiting an acquaintance. 

 

Larry Johnson, a family friend who spoke on behalf of Devin Mitchell's parents, Aubrey and Myrtle Mitchell, said Sunday that funeral arrangements haven't been set. 

 

Devin Mitchell's body was sent Sunday to the state medical examiner in Jackson. 

 

Brinkley said residents at Ridgewood Apartments have been instrumental in the case, which is still ongoing.  

 

"Ridgewood, and the community, is no worse than any other part of the city," Brinkley said. "The residents have been very helpful and forthcoming about anything they've heard." 

 

Mitchell was a junior at Starkville High and played football and baseball. Mitchell, a tight end/linebacker, led Starkville with 34 catches for 772 yards and 10 touchdowns and helped the Yellowjackets reach the Class 5A title game this season. 

 

Classmates and administrators say they'll remember Mitchell for what he accomplished as an athlete but more for what he meant as a friend, relative and classmate. 

 

"It is such a tragedy," said Stan Miller, Starkville High athletics director. "He was a straight A-B student, a churchgoer, a fine young man. We're not smart enough to understand why things happen in our lives. I'm just sick. I'm torn up."

 

The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.

 

 

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