March 3, 2009
Neal Wagner -
It was shortly after 5 p.m. on a cool, slightly rainy evening in Columbus.
The weekend had just begun for Columbus residents, many of whom were traveling home from work or on their way to eat or shop. While Feb. 29, 2008, seemed like a routine Friday evening in Columbus, it soon turned into an event many locals will never forget.
ï¿½Itï¿½s definitely not something you forget too easily,ï¿½ said Columbus Police Department Reserve Officer Guy Taylor. ï¿½That kind of thing is unusual for Columbus. It was almost like a movie, like you just didnï¿½t believe it was really happening here.ï¿½
Taylor was the first police officer to respond to a dispatch call to Soco gas station off 18th Avenue North after several witnesses called 911 to report gunshots fired near the gas station.
Columbus Police Chief Joe St. John already was near the scene, having been working out at the nearby Fitness Factor.
When Taylor arrived, he discovered 70-year-old Lennell Hearn, of 418 Marion Moore Road in Brooksville, wielding a pistol. Moments before, Hearn had used the gun to shoot his wife, Dorothy, and former Columbus City Councilman Kamal Karriem.
ï¿½Was it a frightening scene? Yes and no,ï¿½ Taylor said. ï¿½I am retired military, and I have been shot and stabbed a couple of times years and years ago.
ï¿½I definitely didnï¿½t expect to find what I did when I got there,ï¿½ Taylor added. ï¿½It was originally called in as a domestic dispute. They said two people were fighting in the gas station parking lot.ï¿½
Taylor received the call as he was leaving the Hollywood Video parking lot about 200 yards from the shooting. Although his shift was nearly over, Taylor agreed to respond to the scene because no other officers were in the area.
Once Taylor arrived on the scene, Hearn quickly turned his gun on the reserve police officer and began firing. Taylor exchanged gunfire with the 70-year-old man for several seconds, and was eventually shot three times.
ï¿½The first two hit my bulletproof vest, but the third one hit me on the right side and went all the way through and almost came out the left side of my stomach,ï¿½ Taylor said. ï¿½It really messed my stomach up. I have had to have three surgeries since then to fix the damage that bullet did.ï¿½
St. John also exchanged gunfire with Hearn.
While Hearn, Taylor and St. John were involved in the shootout, several other Lowndes County sheriffï¿½s deputies and CPD officers, arrived on the scene and began attempting to stop Hearn.
ï¿½It was definitely a little chaotic in here, especially since the chief of police was working out in here when the shooting started,ï¿½ said Beth Jeffers, owner of the Fitness Factor, which shares a parking lot with the gas station.
ï¿½The chief ran out of here and got his gun and ran over to help the other officers,ï¿½ Jeffers recalled. ï¿½There were only about 10 people working out in here at the time, but the people who were here were definitely concerned.ï¿½
Hearn shot at officers several times before he stole Taylorï¿½s police cruiser and led police on a vehicle and foot chase on Highway 45 North from BancorpSouth to Kroger and back to a wooded area between the Wal-Mart parking lot and the Best Western hotel.
While Hearn was running toward the Best Western, CPD Lt. Keith Worshaim shot the gunman in the back of the head, dropping him. While Hearn was apprehended and immediately transported to University Medical Center in Jackson, it was later discovered Worshaimï¿½s bullet had not penetrated Hearnï¿½s skull.
After Hearn was arrested, police began to take stock of the damage done during the shooting spree. Though Dorothy Hearn, Karriem and Taylor had each been shot several times, everyone involved in the incident eventually made a full recovery.
ï¿½We are always worried about being involved in an incident like that,ï¿½ said Taylor. ï¿½Psychologically, you have to always expect it, but you always hope for the best anyway.ï¿½
ï¿½You just donï¿½t expect something like that to ever happen in a small town like this,ï¿½ Jeffers said. ï¿½I think it will be a memorable experience for myself and everyone who witnessed it.ï¿½
Although it took Taylor nearly three months to get back on his feet after the shooting, it may have been somewhat of a blessing in disguise, he said.
While doctors were operating to repair the damage done by the bullet, they discovered cancer on one of Taylorï¿½s kidneys.
ï¿½The doctor came in after my first surgery to remove the bullet and said he had good news and bad news,ï¿½ Taylor said. ï¿½He said the good news was that the bullet had been removed and the bad news was that I had cancer.
ï¿½I was like, ï¿½What am I supposed to do now?ï¿½ï¿½ Taylor added. ï¿½They had to wait until I healed up and then cut me open again to remove my kidney. I had another surgery after that one to get a synthetic stomach.ï¿½
Although Taylor admitted the shooting was somewhat traumatic, he said he eagerly awaits the day doctors clear him to return to police duty.
ï¿½The only thing I was not too happy about was the fact that our workersï¿½ compensation company hasnï¿½t really helped me out at all since this,ï¿½ said Taylor. ï¿½But other than that, I have had great support from everyone.
ï¿½I donï¿½t do what I do to get paid,ï¿½ Taylor said. ï¿½All I want to do is to give back to the community that has been there for me so many times.ï¿½