Emily Wagster Pettus
BROOKHAVEN, Miss.: It was after midnight when a gunman burst into the living room of a southern Mississippi home where young people were playing video games.
Caleb Edwards, 15, said the man — whom he knows as Corey Godbolt — demanded to know where his cousin’s parents were. Jordan Blackwell, 18, said they had gone to another town.
At that, Godbolt “just started shooting,” Caleb said. As people scrambled to hide inside the Brookhaven home, Blackwell used his own body to shield his cousin Caleb from the gunfire.
With his mother standing by his side Monday, Caleb spoke calmly as he recounted to the Associated Press how he felt the force of the impact as Blackwell was shot Sunday.
“He loved me enough to take some bullets for me,” Caleb said.
Caleb’s 11-year-old brother, Austin Edwards, was also shot to death in that living room early Sunday. They were among the eight people killed in three houses in a rampage that started late Saturday after law enforcement officers were called about a domestic dispute. A deputy sheriff was among those killed. The other seven were all relatives or acquaintances of the accused shooter.
Investigators said Willie Corey Godbolt, 35, will be charged with one count of capital murder and seven counts of first-degree murder. Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said the charges could change as the investigation continues.
Godbolt was hospitalized for a gunshot wound and was in good condition Monday; it wasn’t clear who shot him. He could make an initial court appearance Tuesday.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation identified some of those killed as: Barbara Mitchell, 55; Brenda May, 53; Tocarra May, 35; Ferral Burage, 45; and Shelia Burage, 46; and Deputy William Durr, 36. The parents of Austin Edwards and Jordan Blackwell identified their sons as the other victims.
Brookhaven is a south Mississippi city surrounded by pine trees and rolling green pastures. The outbreak of violence has shaken the county of 34,500 residents.
More than a dozen people stood in the driveway of Edwards’ and Blackwell’s grandparents Monday afternoon and joined hands for prayer.
“We need you, oh God, to be with this family in their grief,” said Richard Thomas, pastor of New Home Church of Christ Holiness.
Jordan Blackwell played linebacker for the Brookhaven High football team. As he prepared for his senior year, two universities and a nearby community college had already expressed interest in him, said his mother, Tiffany Blackwell.
The deputy, William Durr, had worked in Christian ministry before going into law enforcement and liked doing puppet shows to deliver uplifting messages to children. Durr was married and had an 11-year-old son. His mother spoke briefly with the AP on Monday, saying that the family is still in distress.
“He was a good Christian man,” Debbie Durr said at her rural home near Brookhaven.