March 22, 2014 11:41:19 PM
When local law enforcement went to check on a New Hope man whose family was concerned about his welfare Tuesday, they had no idea that what started as a routine call would turn into one of the bloodiest days for law enforcement in recent history.
Two deputies were shot and another injured when Kenneth "Kent" Coscia allegedly shot at them from behind a closed door, according to Lowndes County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Marc Miley.
Miley said deputies initially responded to 487 Drake Circle after Coscia's family called 911 with concerns about his mental and physical well-being. Deputies were dispatched to the home for what is commonly known as a welfare check.
"A welfare check is a check on a person's welfare," Miley said. "Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, they are in there sleeping or something like that."
Tuesday's phone call to 911 from Coscia's family wasn't the first time, Miley said. A deputy had been dispatched to the home Sunday to check on Coscia. During that visit, deputies were granted access inside and noticed Coscia's array of weapons.
"There had been a welfare check that weekend, on Sunday, and from that they knew he had weapons," Miley said.
When deputies returned to the home on Tuesday and couldn't get Coscia to the door, Miley said they decided to assemble some members of the Special Response Team that happened to be on duty as a precaution.
"They knocked and when he didn't come to the door, they thought he may in there deceased or he may be in there passed out but based on what they knew already they decided to make a tactical approach," Miley said.
Lowndes County Sheriff's Department Narcotics Commander Captain Archie Williams is the team leader of the SRT. Williams, who was in federal court at the time of the incident and not on scene, said the welfare check was never intended to be a SRT call.
"There wasn't a reason at that moment to do a full team call out," Williams said. "However, because of the information they had of his possible access to weapons and his mental state, several members of the team who were already on duty were brought in as a precaution."
The Lowndes County SRT has 11 members. Since it was not a full out call, seven members of the team were used in Tuesday's incident.
"They thought they had enough to handle the welfare check of Coscia," Williams said.
Williams said Coscia's family members provided deputies with a key to the home's front door. He said Coscia started shooting as soon as deputies turned the key.
"We had consent to use the key and open the door in order to make contact with him," he said. "As soon as they tried to turn the lock is when he opened fire. The door was never opened. He shot through that door."
SRT Commander Larry Swearingen and SRT Assistant Commander Clint Sims were the two deputies shot in the incident. Deputy Scott Glasgow was also injured, according to Miley.
When the deputies fell to the ground and retreated to safety, Coscia came out of the home and surrendered, putting his weapon on the ground, Miley said.
Williams added that contrary to witness reports, a flash bang was never used in Tuesday's incident.
"I know for a fact there was not any kind of distraction device deployed in this instance, he said. "At the current moment, the SRT doesn't have access to any because they're on backorder."
Williams said that while welfare checks are considered a routine call, at the end of the day, no call is considered the same.
Miley echoed Williams and said his officers had no way of knowing what was waiting for them on other side of the door Tuesday.
"You have no way of knowing when someone is going to go off the deep end," he said.
Coscia was arrested on scene. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and one count of shooting into an occupied dwelling when a stray bullet hit the house across the street, according to Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. He is currently in the custody of the Monroe County Detention Center on a $3,050,000 bond.
Sims and Swearingen are recovering from surgery at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, according to Miley. Hospital officials said Sims was expected to be released Friday but will not be released until next week according to the department's Facebook page. A benefit fund has been set up for the officers at local Cadence banks. Donations are also being accepted at the sheriff's department.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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