Suspect dead after 32-hour standoff

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Nathan Shepherd took 10-year-old hostage after killing her father

Itawamba County | Authorities are piecing together the details of what led a man to kill his best friend and take one of his daughters hostage on Saturday, leading to a 32-hour standoff that resulted in the suspect being killed by SWAT Team members.

Around 9:15 p.m. Sunday evening members of the Mississippi Highway Patrol SWAT Team entered the home on Alice Hall Road, just off Ridge Road about a mile outside Red Bay, where the suspect, Nathan Shepherd, was killed. The 10-year-old girl was rescued after the harrowing ordeal, which began around 1 p.m. on Saturday when Shepherd apparently shot and killed her father, Paul Blackburn before coming out of the house and taking the child hostage.

Itawamba County Sheriff’s deputies were initially called to the scene before being joined by members of the Mississippi Highway Patrol and several other law enforcement agencies. By Sunday morning agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation had joined the scene to help provide relief to officers who had been there for the duration.

How it started

Though the situation is still under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI), family members told The Red Bay News that Shepherd and Blackburn were as close as brothers and Shepherd was considered a member of the family, though some disagreements had caused tension. Whatever it was, it likely led to Saturday’s events. 

Details are sketchy, but according to family members, Blackburn needed a car and had asked Shepherd to come pick him up at the home to go car shopping. When Shepherd arrived Blackburn and the girls all got into Shepherd’s truck. At that point Shepherd said he forgot something and went back into the house. After waiting a while Blackburn got out of the truck and went back into the house to see what was taking so long.

That was when the girls heard the gunshot which presumably took Blackburn’s life. After the shot Shepherd walked out of the house and told the other two girls to go next door and call the police. He then put his hand around the 10-year-old, snatched her up and retreated back in the house. The other girls were able to escape to seek help.

Ongoing investigation 

According to a statement by the MBI, after the SWAT Team entered the house, “the male hostage (Blackburn) was found deceased inside the residence. MHP SWAT were able to safely rescue the 10 year old female. The male suspect was fatally wounded and a weapon was recovered at the scene. MBI Special Agents, along with the MBI Crime Scene Unit, will gather all relevant interviews and evidence as part of this ongoing investigation. All investigative findings will be provided to the District Attorney’s office for review.”

Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson told Tupelo television station WTVA reporter Gracyn Ashmore that the child appeared to be okay and was smiling after authorities were able to get her out of the house. Dickinson also said the girl’s actions during the situation likely saved the lives of two of his deputies. According to WTVA, Dickinson said, “she called 911 Saturday and warned the dispatcher not to allow deputies to come to the door because the man, Nathan Shepard, was waiting for them. It turns out the girl’s father, Paul Blackburn, was dead when deputies first arrived, and the sheriff says Shepard was trying to hide that from the girl. However, she found out and got upset.”

Authorities remained in contact with Shepherd and the girl throughout the ordeal, trying to negotiate a surrender. However, Dickinson said that when officers realized Blackburn was dead, “it changed they dynamic of the situation.”

Dickinson told WTVA that authorities hoped for a peaceful resolution, but reached a point where they knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“As long as we were talking, there was hope. So we were going to just stay with it as long as it took,” he said. “As things wore on it became apparent that when we found the opportunity (to enter the home and take out the suspect) we were going to have to take it.”

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