CANTON, Miss. (AP) — Bail was set at $300,000 Tuesday for the man accused of gunning down a defendant outside a rural Mississippi courthouse — a crime officials say might have been motivated by revenge over the recent shooting of his mother.
William B. Wells, 24, was a former firefighter who had never been in any more serious legal trouble than some traffic tickets. But authorities say that on Monday, he pulled up to the Madison County Courthouse, got out of his truck, and shot a man in the chest with a semiautomatic handgun.
On Tuesday, he appeared via video before Judge Mamie Chinn, who set his bail.
Kendrick Armond Brown was supposed to appear in court Monday but died there in a courtyard. Sheriff’s deputies witnessed the shooting from a security checkpoint inside the glass-walled, courthouse lobby, and Wells laid down his gun and surrendered as soon as they came out, Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said.
Brown had been facing up to life in prison for felony drug charges under Mississippi’s habitual offender law.
Authorities said they hadn’t confirmed a motive. But Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest has said that official were investigating whether Wells was seeking revenge for the Saturday night shooting of his mother, Sherry Wells.
Canton Police Chief Otha Brown said Sherry Wells was shot while driving to work Saturday night. She drove to the Canton Police station, about 200 yards across a parking lot from where Monday’s shooting took place, reported the crime, and then was taken to a hospital with a knee injury. Brown said early Monday that Canton police had no suspects. Sherry Wells was later released from the hospital.
Sherry Wells had been scheduled to testify against Brown. Guest described her as an informant. He later wrote in a text message to The Associated Press that authorities are “most definitely” investigating retaliation as a motive.