Man who shot Tupelo police officers said to be bank robber killed in Arizona

Law enforcement authorities believe the bank robber who shot two police officers in Tupelo, Miss., killing one, is the same man later killed in another attempted bank robbery in Phoenix.

Thomas Wells/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal/AP
The hearse carrying the body of Police Sgt. Kevin "Gale" Stauffer en route to Tupelo Memorial Gardens Friday. Sgt. Stauffer was shot and killed by a fleeing suspect when responding to a bank robbery on Monday, Dec. 23.

UPDATE 5:36 pm from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Phoenix police identified the suspect as Mario Edward Garnett, 40, who is from the Midwest and served four years in the U.S. Army.

Law enforcement authorities believe the bank robber who shot two police officers in Tupelo, Miss. last week, killing one, is the same man later killed in another attempted bank robbery in Phoenix, Ariz., Saturday.

If confirmed by physical evidence, this would bring to a close a massive manhunt that crossed state lines and involved many law enforcement agencies. The man shot and killed Saturday has yet to be identified.

"We believe that this suspect is the same individual who is responsible for the attempted bank robbery in Atlanta, the robbery of the BancorpSouth in Tupelo, the shooting of Officer Joseph Maher, and the murder of Officer Gale Stauffer," the Jackson, Miss., FBI bureau said in a statement late Saturday.

During the suspect’s getaway in Mississippi Monday, he was confronted at a railroad crossing by Officers Stauffer and Maher. Both were shot at close range. Stauffer, an Iraq War veteran of the Louisiana Army National Guard who had served with the Tupelo Police Department for eight years, died. Maher remains in serious condition.

Based on surveillance camera video of the suspect, authorities quickly connected the bank robberies in Atlanta and 300 miles away in Tupelo.

In the small town of Tupelo Friday, a memorial service was held for Officer Stauffer, who leaves behind a wife and two small children. More than 500 people attended the service, and an estimated 2,000 lined the route along which the officer’s body was escorted prior to the service, according to the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss.

The crime spree apparently ended in Phoenix when a police officer responded to a 911 call about a bank robbery in progress. A customer waiting in line at a drive-through fast-food restaurant across the street reported seeing a man wearing a mask entering the bank

When the uniformed officer took cover as he came under fire by the suspect outside the bank, a plain-clothes detective in an unmarked vehicle responding to the 911 call shot the suspect, who was pronounced dead after being taken to a Phoenix hospital.

"We had an officer that was obviously in distress, trying to get to cover as this suspect is shooting at him," Phoenix police spokesman James Holmes told the Arizona Republic. "The detective did what he should have done. He responded, and because he responded, we have two officers that were involved in this ordeal and they're both alive."

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