A Mississippi police officer was killed during an early Saturday morning standoff near the town of Iuka in Tishomingo County. James Lee Tartt, 44, died as a result of gunfight at a home just outside the small, rural town about 118 miles east of Memphis, Tennessee.
As reported by the Clarion Ledger, Tartt had been in law enforcement for 22 years and a member of the state’s narcotics bureau for the last 16. In 2011, he won a Bureau of Narcotics Agent of the Year award and an Award of Valor in 2012. Tartt is survived by his wife and two stepchildren.
Three other police officers assigned to the SWAT team were wounded in the shootout and are being treated at local hospitals. Reportedly, two officers have only minor injuries, while details on the third’s condition have not been released.
Mack Wilemon, Tishomingo County Coroner, said gunfire erupted after a six-hour standoff developed at a house where police were called about a domestic disturbance late Friday afternoon. When officers first arrived at the residence, a suspect in the home was instructed to come out. However, the suspect refused to comply and negotiations began.
It was around midnight that two tactical teams, one from the Mississippi Highway Patrol and another from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, rushed into the house. Upon entry, shots were exchanged between the suspect and SWAT team members.
“They negotiated. They must have decided it wasn’t going too well. The SWAT team stormed the house,” Wilemon said.
After the shootout, Tartt was taken to a hospital in Iuka with multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Charles Lambert, 45, has been identified as the gunman and was also killed. Lambert was inside the house holding his wife and 10-year-old daughter hostage. Neither were injured during the gun battle. Lambert’s high-powered rifle was recovered by police.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant offered his condolences to the Tartt family on Saturday.
“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.”
According to family member Don Tartt, Officer Tart had recently moved into a new house and was just married a year ago. Born and raised in Mississippi, the slain officer loved to hunt and fish.
“Lee has always been a kind of dedicated kid. 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.”
Lenon England, known among friends as “Chop,” had befriended Lee Tartt nearly 12 years ago. Although he keeps seeing his friend’s picture in the news, he still finds the reports of the Mississippi police officer’s death unbelievable.
“He’s probably as good a friend as I’ve ever had. It’s sort of surreal. It still hasn’t sunk in yet, because I’ve always thought of him as Superman. I’ve heard the stories of what he’s been through and dealt with and I honestly thought he was invincible.”
The death of Officer James Lee Tartt comes a little less than a week since another tragic shooting left a fellow Mississippi police officer with severe brain damage. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Clarksdale Officer Derrick Couch was investigating a robbery at a local convenience store when one of the two suspects shot the officer in the eye and fled on foot.
Even though Tartt was a narcotics agent, he was also part of an area SWAT team formed to respond in situations like the standoff at Lambert’s house.
Warren Strain with the Department of Public Safety said Tartt is the fifth Mississippi police officer assigned to the narcotics bureau killed in the past 45 years. The last agent to die in the line of duty was in 1998.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, along with other crime scene technicians and forensic scientists, is conducting a thorough investigation of the incident. Having a Mississippi police officer killed in the line of duty in such a small town is a shock to residents as well as everyone directly involved.
[Photo by AP Photo/Michael H. Miller]