A man being driven to prison to begin a 40-year sentence Friday pulled a hidden handgun from between his legs and killed two sheriff’s deputies before running off into the woods, police said.
Eric Leondra Snow, 21, was captured almost nine hours later after an intense manhunt involving state troopers, a patrol helicopter and barking search dogs.
FBI agents and officers from several counties converged on Snow after he was spotted with night vision equipment hiding in the woods behind a Jitney Jungle supermarket. He was arrested without incident, unharmed.
“We had to just let our feelings go and believe the system would take care of him,” Mendenhall Police Chief Michael Mullins said.
Snow had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault Friday and was being driven to prison along with a woman inmate when he shot the officers in the back of the head and the neck, authorities said.
Simpson County Sheriff Doyle King said the woman told investigators that they had been on the road for about 20 minutes when Snow pulled out the gun.
Jefferson Davis County deputies J.P. Rutland and Tommy Bourne still had their weapons on their bodies when they were found.
Authorities said the car did not have a cage that separated the officers from the prisoners. A bullet hole was in the passenger-side window and blood was splattered on the front seat and visors.
King said one possibility being checked was that Snow had earlier arranged for someone to meet him in the area.
Corrections spokesman Ken Jones said the deputies were transporting Snow and a female inmate, Patricia Gholar, to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County.
Gholar, sentenced to three years in prison last year for fraud, had been in court for a hearing and was being taken back to prison. After she helped alert authorities to the killings, she was back in custody.
Snow had been arrested in 1994 on aggravated assault charges for the shooting of 32-year-old L. Nathan Graves. Snow was free on bond when he shot 19-year-old Jerome Keyes to death in July 1994.
Snow pleaded guilty to Keyes’ slaying and Graves’ shooting Friday morning and received two consecutive 20-year prison sentences.