One law enforcement officer was killed and three were wounded early on Saturday after a six-hour long standoff at a rural Mississippi house ended when authorities stormed the house and the gunman inside opened fire, authorities said. The man suspected of firing on the officers was also killed.
The men killed were named as James Lee Tartt, 44, a Mississippi narcotics agent, and suspected gunman Charles Lee Lambert, who was 45. The high-powered rifle Lambert used was recovered.
Tartt’s family described him as a dedicated officer who had spent most of his career battling drugs.
“He was just a really good guy, and he wanted to make the world a better place. Ever since I’ve known him he has always been the type who would do anything to make the world a better place,” said Julia Criss Tartt, James Lee Tartt’s aunt.
Her husband, Don Tartt, said Lee Tartt and his wife had just moved into a new house that the officer had been building for two years. They had married about a year ago, he said, adding that Lee Tartt’s new wife had two children who became his stepchildren when they married.
Last fall, Lee Tartt ran for sheriff in Grenada county but lost to an incumbent, said his aunt.
Tartt was raised in Mississippi and was a “country boy” who loved to fish and hunt, said his uncle. In addition to his work as a narcotics agent Lee was also part of an area Swat team that would respond to situations like the Friday night standoff.
Don Tartt said his daughter is Donna Tartt, the author who has written such books as The Secret History and The Goldfinch, and she was a cousin of the killed officer.
“Lee has always been a kind of dedicated kid,” said Don Tartt. “It’s just sad that he had to meet the end like he did, but when you’re in law enforcement you have to expect that.”
Three state troopers who entered the home were wounded. The most seriously wounded officer was out of surgery on Saturday and in critical but stable condition at a hospital in Corinth, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain.
The other two officers were in fair condition at hospitals in Memphis and Tupelo, Strain said.
The standoff started on Friday afternoon when authorities responded to a domestic dispute call at the home in rural northeastern Mississippi, authorities said. But the man, holed up in his home with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, refused to come out, sparking a six-hour standoff with officers outside.
Strain said man wasn’t shooting at officers before they entered the house but they had tried to talk with him for six hours and had fundamentally exhausted negotiations.
The woman and child were rescued, said Strain. But the man was killed after he opened fire as tactical teams entered the home.
Multiple police agencies remained on the scene on Saturday afternoon at the one-story house in sparsely populated woods in Tishomingo County.
Mississippi governor Phil Bryant called on the state’s residents to pray for Tartt’s family.
“Our men and women in law enforcement put themselves in harm’s way every hour of every shift. This is a tragic reminder that their willingness to serve can exact the highest price,” Bryant said.
Tartt was a decorated officer who had been in law enforcement for 22 years. He joined the narcotics bureau in 2000 and in 2011 was honored as agent of the year, Strain said.
Strain said Tartt is the fifth Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent killed in agency’s 45-year history. The last agent killed was in 1998.