Bonds were set Thursday morning at the Jasper County Courthouse in Bay Springs for two former Laurel Police Department officers arrested Tuesday morning.
The two Jasper County men were arrested through indictments handed down over the past days by Jasper County Grand Jurys. One has been charged in the 2019 shooting death of 30-year-old Dominique Ann Henry of Jasper County. Both have been charged in the 2018 alleged brutal beating of James Barnett who fled from the former LPD officers from the Laurel area into Jasper County.
Christopher Wade Robertson, 28, and Anthony Bryce Gilbert, 27, were both taken into custody by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. Robertson has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Henry, as well as aggravated assault in the alleged Barnett beating incident. Gilbert also has been charged with aggravated assault in the alleged Barnett beating case.
Mississippi Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Stanley Sorey set two bonds for Robertson who pled not guilty Thursday to both charges he faces. In the manslaughter case, which has been presented in the Second Judicial Court District, the Judge set Robertson's bond at $150,000. A trial has been set for August 21, 2021 in Bay Springs in that case. Robertson's bond in the alleged aggravated assault of Barnett, which was presented in the First Judicial Court District, was set at $100,000. The trial for that case has been set for February 9, 2021 in Paulding.
Judge Sorey also set a $100,000 bond for Gilbert in the alleged aggravated assault of Barnett to which he pled not guilty. A trial date has been set for February 2, 2021 in Paulding.
The Judge ordered the men, both who appeared in court with Public Defender Rance Ulmer, to have no contact in any way with the victims involved in the cases. He also ordered them to not leave the state.
A Jasper County Second Judicial District Grand Jury handed down the indictment against Robertson in the Henry shooting death Monday. A Jasper County First Judicial District Grand Jury handed down the indictments against Robertson and Gilbert in the Barnett assault last Thursday.
Henry was killed on November 20, 2019 after allegedly banging on Robertson’s residence door on Highway 528 early in the morning and stealing Robertson’s wife’s car. Robertson admitted to the shooting at the time, claiming self-defense.
The Jasper County Sheriff’s Department immediately handed over the investigation to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation because Robertson’s wife was a part-time employee of the department.
Mississippi Thirteenth Circuit Court District Attorney Matt Sullivan Tuesday morning described the shooting death of Henry as an excessive and violent response by Roberston, even though she had created a disturbance at Robertson’s home. There are several different types of manslaughter charges, according to Sullivan, and the one Robertson faces revolves around the unnecessary killing of Henry while resisting an unlawful act.
The indictment charges, according to Sullivan, that Robertson did not act in self-defense, and that he shot two or more times into the side of the vehicle driven by Henry.
“I’ve been in contact with the victim’s mother and have had several conversations with her on the phone. Our sympathy goes out to those affected,” Sullivan said. “We are doing what we feel is right, according to the law. It (the shooting) was an excessive reaction that was unnecessarily violent.”
He went on to say that Robertson’s indictment and arrest in the Henry shooting resulted from an extensive law enforcement investigation and an in-depth analysis and review conducted by the DA’s Office.
The investigation into the Henry shooting case by the District Attorney’s Office opened the door to another criminal investigation that led to the aggravated assault indictments against Robertson and Gilbert in the alleged James Barnett beating case.
Both Robertson and Gilbert were fired from the Laurel Police Department following the alleged assault. Barnett later settled a civil suit outside of court that was brought before the U.S. Southern District Court in November 2019 against the officers and the City of Laurel, according to records. Sullivan said his office’s investigation into the alleged crime that culminated in Jasper County revealed unwarranted force by the officers.
“I know law enforcement deals with a lot of tough situations. They many times don’t know who they are arresting, and those they are arresting don’t know them. But, when force becomes unnecessary that deserves an investigation,” he explained.
Sullivan went on to explain the alleged aggravated assault indictments against Robertson and Gilbert revolve around “manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
“Their indictments charge that they both caused and/or attempted to cause serious bodily injury to James Barnett,” he said. “The aggravated assault indictments resulted from factual information and evidence recently subpoenaed by my office.”
He further said, “Only factual information supported by evidence will be admitted by the Judge should any defendant choose to go to trial. Rumor, speculation, and unsubstantiated allegations are prohibited and cannot be presented for a trial jury’s future consideration. The defendants are presumed innocent of these charges until proven guilty. I am going to do my job and seek justice. We must insure that all those affected are treated fairly under our laws.”