Witness to Southaven police shootout: 'It was traumatic' - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Witness to Southaven police shootout: 'It was traumatic'

Kevin Darnell Washington - Memphis booking photo (Source: Memphis Police Department) Kevin Darnell Washington - Memphis booking photo (Source: Memphis Police Department)
Deputy Lee Hutchens (left) and Sergeant Hunter Garrett (right) (Source: DCSO) Deputy Lee Hutchens (left) and Sergeant Hunter Garrett (right) (Source: DCSO)
Kevin Darnell Washington - Florida booking photo (Source: State of Florida) Kevin Darnell Washington - Florida booking photo (Source: State of Florida)
SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC) -

A string of violent armed robberies in Mississippi ended in a shootout between deputies and the suspect Wednesday night. Two deputies were injured, but they returned fire and killed the suspect.

District Attorney John Champion identified the suspect as 54-year-old Kevin Darnell Washington, who has an extensive criminal record consisting of armed robbery, drug possession, kidnapping, and other criminal charges and convictions.

Washington, who has gone by nine different aliases over the years, was convicted and sentenced to serve 30 years for his crimes at Tennessee Department of Corrections. He served about 11 1/2 years before being released. 

"This was a very, very violent felon who, in the span of 30 minutes last night, or roughly an hour, commit three armed robberies," Champion said. "We do believe that the incident in Memphis is going to be connected to him as well, but we're still working with MPD and MBI to get all the background on the case."

Connection to Ardent Studios carjacking

The incident in Memphis that DA Champion referred to is a carjacking and kidnapping that happened at Ardent Studios last Friday. The 20-year-old victim said he was approached by a man and forced at gunpoint to drive him down the street. A short time later, he was ordered out of his car and the man drove away in it.

"Without a doubt there is going to be a connection, but the Southaven, Horn Lake, MBI is working with MPD to tie all those ends up," DeSoto County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Macon Moore said.

"Heroic" deputies end DeSoto crime spree

DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco identified the two deputies who were injured as Patrol Sergeant Hunter Garrett and K-9 Deputy Brandon Hutchens, who prefers to go by Lee Hutchens.

Garrett and Hutchens arrived in Southaven to help officers find the man responsible for several robberies in the area. Just after 9 p.m., Sgt. Garrett found the suspect in a parked car in the Kroger parking lot on Stateline Road.

"The brave officers confronted the suspect," Champion said. "He opened fire on the officers and the officers were shot."

Garrett was shot in the foot and Hutchens was shot in an area of his chest that wasn't covered by his bullet proof vest. He suffered a collapsed lung and a broken rib, according to Sheriff Bill Rasco.

Garrett, who has spent 6 1/2 years with DeSoto County Sheriff's Department, was released from the hospital early Thursday morning. Hutchens is in critical, but stable condition and is expected to be OK. He is an 8-year veteran with the department.

Hutchens is engaged to be married. His fiancee approached him in the hospital and asked, "Are we still getting married?" Hutchens' jokingly shrugged his shoulders, and then assured his fiancee, "I love you."

"This situation like this is something you hope you never have to face, but you know, we have officers that are trained to help our guys get through this emotionally, but it's tough on your family, the officers, and the officers that work with them," Chief Deputy Moore said. "We bring in counselors to help get through this. It's something you never hope you have to deal with as an administrator, as a spouse, or as a coworker, but unfortunately, we do have to deal with this."

Warning for criminals

Sheriff Rasco and Chief Deputy Moore said they will not allow crimes like these to stand.

"What it means is DeSoto County is fixing to buckle down," Champion said. "If you come to DeSoto County and break a crime, we're going to get you. That's our statement, we're going to make sure you don't come back to DeSoto County. We're all family. We're all dealing with the same people. Just because there's a state line, that doesn't make any difference."

He continued, "I cannot recall when the last time a DeSoto County Sheriff's deputy was shot...We're going to do everything we can to beef up our department and make sure we keep our people safe. We're going to take charge and not let that happen in our county."

"If you get one of us down here, you get us all. You come down to DeSoto County to commit a crime, it's not the Southaven Police Department, Horn Lake Police Department, Olive Branch Police Department...you're going to get us all," Moore said. 

"They [deputies] were very, very brave confronting the suspect who committed three violent armed robberies," Champion said.

Witnesses describe the scene

People in the area were surprised and concerned when they saw the large police presence in the area Wednesday night.

"I pulled up probably around 9:30 p.m. with my wife and got out, and I saw probably 20 cop cars," David Avanzi said. "I went in and said, 'Is it safe to pump gas?' and they said, 'Hey, did you hear the gunshots?' I said, 'No.'"

Avanzi described waiting at the gas station for a short time as law enforcement officers got a handle on the situation following the shooting.

"The police tried to make sure we weren't involved," Avanzi said. "Any entrances and exits to the gas station were pretty much blocked. We weren't going anywhere."

Champion said the shooting and armed robberies Wednesday night are examples proving the dangers that exist.

"Nothing's safe anymore. I hate to say it that way," Champion said.

Charles Finkley was pumping gas in front of Kroger when suddenly a lot of law enforcement sirens started blaring and police arrived. 

"I knew that something serious was happening," Finkley said. "The clerk and another lady was crouched down behind the face of the building over here. We didn't know what was going to happen because we seen the officer with the shotgun."

Finkley said he knew it might be bad just by watching the officer who got the shotgun out of his trunk.

"I seen the adrenaline. You could see it there," he said. 

As he was filming the scene, he said he heard gunfire after the suspect took off running from police. 

"I noticed about four or five rapid shots," Finkley said."I had never witnessed something like this firsthand. It was traumatic."

Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson asked everyone to remember the deputies and all of law enforcement as they tuck their children into bed.

Horn Lake and Olive Branch Police took to social media to express their thoughts and prayers for the deputies.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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