Shooting incident

District Attorney John Champion (right) and DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco listen to questions during a Monday afternoon news conference following Sunday’s officer-involved shooting of a 76-year-old Marshall County man.

(Editor's note: Story updated with name of shooting victim.)

A 76-year-old Marshall County man was shot and killed late Sunday night, Dec. 29, at the end of a series of events where shots were fired in the parking lots of two DeSoto County restaurants and a firearm brandished at another. District Attorney John Champion released more details about the incidents as he begins to look further into what happened. 

Monday afternoon, Dec. 30, Champion said the victim of an officer-involved shooting died late Sunday night when a pursuit ended in the median of the I-22/I-269 interchange south of Olive Branch and shots were exchanged.

John Bott was identified as the man who fired first at DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department deputies. The suspect was then was shot in response to the initial gunfire.

“There’s a lot of background things that has to be done about this gentleman,” Champion told reporters at a news conference. “Obviously, it appears that he’s going to have some severe mental issues as best we can tell at this point, based on conversations with a family member of his. We do know that he was a veteran and that he had significant mental issues.”

Champion said the incidents began at the Southaven Longhorn Steakhouse on Goodman Road at approximately 10 p.m. Sunday night. The man got into an argument inside the restaurant with employees and was asked to leave, which he did, but then shots were fired outside in the parking lot. Southaven police officers were called in to respond to the shots fired call.

Shortly after that, another call came from the nearby Fazoli’s restaurant, also on Goodman Road, that the man had brandished a gun there, but no shots were fired.

The suspect then left Fazioli’s and headed for Olive Branch, where Champion said the man caused a disturbance inside the Applebee’s restaurant, again on Goodman Road. He left and again fired shots in the parking lot before leaving the area, traveling southeast on U.S. Highway 78 and I-22.

Deputies spotted him on the highway, forced him off the road into the median at the I-269 interchange, and ordered him out of the vehicle. The man refused to get out, but instead fired a shot, which was followed by the deputies responding with gunfire, killing the man inside the vehicle.

“In these days and times now, when you fire a shot at an officer you’re probably going to get fired back upon,” Champion explained. “That’s what happened here.”

Seven deputies are now on paid administrative leave as the investigation into the incident continues, Champion and Sheriff Bill Rasco said. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is assisting the District Attorney’s office in the case.

Given the number of people at all three locations Sunday night, Champion speculated there will be several witnesses that will need to be interviewed about the case.

“I do know that at Longhorn Steakhouse, it was standing room only,” Champion said. “At Fazoli’s, I don’t know how many witnesses were there but I’m sure there’s going to be a significant number. I understand Applebee’s was very busy, so there’s just a lot of people that we have to talk to. That’s just the beginning process of where we are now.”

The district attorney estimated it could be the end of January at the earliest before a determination of whether or not to go forward, but he wouldn’t speculate beyond that.

Sunday night’s incident is another sad occurrence of a changing society, Champion said.

“Look at what happened nationwide yesterday (Sunday),” he said. “You have the gentleman that opened fire in the (Texas) church, you have the gentleman who went into the Jewish rabbi’s residence in New York. This is the time of year for celebrating and being with family, not things like this. In the 26 years of me doing this, it tells me the world has changed.”

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.