Several law enforcement agencies, with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department acting as the lead law enforcement group, responded to a call of suspicious conduct by a black male near the Pine Belt Regional Airport Sunday night. The man stated that he was waiting on the CIA to pick him up in a helicopter. That’s according to Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge.
Deputies responded to the airport but did not find the suspect there, so they started doing some perimeter searches and later discovered a suspicious male at a local bakery on Superior Drive.
It was there at Flowers Baking Company on Superior Drive that one of the deputies made contact with the suspect and realized that he was with another person. That person turned out to be an employee of the business who was being held as a hostage. The employee was on a break drinking a milkshake when the suspect, John Clark of Tomball, Texas, made contact with the employee and asked him if he could use the telephone. He then took the employee hostage at gunpoint. The gun allegedly used by Clark was a long gun, not a handgun.
“It’s one of those high-velocity, high-powered guns that will penetrate body armor,” said Sheriff Hodge.
The SWAT team and the negotiating team from the Jones County Sheriff’s Department was on the scene, and the deputies tried to engage the suspect in conversation all night, without success, until the early morning hours. It was nearly 6:00 a.m. before the suspect began to talk to authorities.
“The suspect did have a visible weapon on the hostage, and the deputies handled it very professionally. I thought they did a tremendous job in deescalating the situation. Once they got a conversation going, the hostage was able to get loose and ran to safety, and the suspect ran inside the building,” explained Hodge.
Law enforcement officials could hear Clark inside the building as he moved stuff against the doors and windows to barricade himself in. Negotiators kept talking, and Clark eventually surrendered his weapon and was taken into custody.
Clark is currently in the Jones County jail charged with commercial burglary and kidnapping.
“We were able to talk to his family. Actually one of his sisters came up here from New Orleans this morning as we were in negotiations with him. She never made contact with him during this time, but she was here,” added the sheriff. “He has no ties to this area. We believe he just came off the interstate and wound up there at the airport.”
To the sheriff’s knowledge, the hostage suffered no serious physical harm, and no other employees were on the scene during the incident.
Sheriff Hodge noted the assistance given to his department by the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office, EmServ, volunteer fire departments and emergency management personnel.
“I appreciate everybody working together, making a difference, and it was teamwork that brought this to a peaceful conclusion.”
Law enforcement did have to use armored vehicles in the process for protection for officials there, the second time the armored vehicles have been used in the past week. They were also used last week in Wayne County.