Meridian, MS – Meridian Police Department (MPD) Officer Kennis Croom was murdered in the line of duty on Thursday night while saving four children from a homicide suspect, according to law enforcement sources.
Investigators said the 30-year-old officer was responding to a domestic disturbance in the 2400-block of 51st Avenue at approximately 5:20 p.m. on June 9 when the fatal attack occurred, WTOK reported.
He was the first officer to arrive at the scene, Meridian Police Chief Deborah Young said during a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Law enforcement sources close to the investigation said 31-year-old Dante Marquez Bender murdered a woman inside a nearby home and was allegedly about to kill four children when Officer Croom arrived and stopped him, the Darkhorse Press reported.
The suspect fatally shot Officer Croom during the confrontation, according to police.
The pregnant woman’s body was found inside the house, according to WTOK.
The female victim was later identified Bender’s fiancé, Brittany Jones.
She had also been fatally shot, Chief Young said.
Bender fled the scene but was apprehended at a gas station in Ackerman at approximately 10:30 a.m. on June 10 after a massive multi-agency manhunt.
Details regarding what transpired prior to the shooting have not been released.
Newton Police Chief Randy Patrick confirmed that Bender worked as an officer for his department for just a few months before he fired him in January, The Washington Post reported.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) is handing the ongoing investigation into the fatal attack.
Lauderdale County Coroner Clayton Cobler said Officer Croom was shot five times in the chest and once in his head, WJTV reported.
His body is expected to be transported to the Organ Recovery Center in Jackson to help save others, according to WTOK.
Chief Young said that Officer Croom chose to work on Thursday night, even though it was his day off.
It was something he regularly did on his scheduled days off, she added.
“Officer Kennis Croom lost his life doing what he loved – serving his community,” Chief Young told reporters. “He was full of passion, joy, and dedication.”
The chief said Officer Croom is the definition of a true hero.
“To his family, we are praying for you. I know there are no words to ease your pain,” Chief Young continued. “Pray for the families, the Meridian Police Department and this community. We also ask that this community come together and keep these officers lifted.”
Officer Croom joined the Meridian Police Department (MPD) in October of 2021, according to WFSA.
He previously served with the Jackson Police Department and the Eutaw Police Department, The Birmingham News reported.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Officer Croom began his law enforcement career in 2013.
“We were indeed fortunate that we got an opportunity to work with a passionate officer like him,’’ Jackson Police Chief James Davis said in a press release as news of Officer Croom’s murder spread.
“To the family of Officer Croom, I am praying for your strength during the time of immense sorrow. I know there are no words that can east your pain,’’ Chief Davis wrote, according to The Birmingham News. “I will pray daily that you find solace in his memory. He will truly be missed. He is a hero forever.”
Mississippi has lost another hero. Yesterday, Officer Kennis Croom made the ultimate sacrifice while answering the call to protect a fellow Mississippian. Officer Croom and his brave actions will never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/z1j8cQahiB
— Governor Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) June 10, 2022
Dante Bender, who's accused of killing Officer Kennis Croom, has now been arrested. This is video from the Weir PD placing Officer Croom’s handcuffs on Bender, an honorary act done by police whenever this type of tragedy occurs. We’ll have the latest on the investigation on @WLBT pic.twitter.com/TMdsjtxnSu
— Quentin Smith (@Q_Smith_) June 10, 2022
Thank you for your service and sacrifice in the protection of others Officer Kennis Croom.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 pic.twitter.com/XxRO9cEb0l
— Jackson Police Department (@JacksonMSPolice) June 10, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Meridian Police Department Officer Kennis Croom, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Kennis Croom, your life mattered.