published Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Accused cop-killer believed slain in Phoenix bank robbery

PHOENIX — A suspect killed by Phoenix police in a bank robbery attempt is believed to be the same man accused in the shooting death of a Mississippi police officer and the wounding of another, the FBI said Sunday.

The statement came hours after Phoenix police shot and killed a suspect after Saturday's bank robbery attempt. Investigators believe the same suspect also tried to rob a bank in Atlanta on Monday, hours before he allegedly shot the two officers in Tupelo, Miss.

Authorities didn't immediately release the suspect's name.

Daniel McMullen, special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Jackson, Miss., said records showed the suspect's cellphone was in Atlanta, Phoenix and Tupelo at the time of each incident.

McMullen also said there were "numerous similarities" between the three bank robberies, including the clothing worn by the suspect, statements he made during the incidents and his "overall modus operandi."

"This investigation is not over," McMullen said at a news conference in Tupelo. "There are numerous leads which we must continue to follow and questions which we must answer."

On Monday afternoon, the suspect stole an undisclosed amount of money from the BancorpSouth in Tupelo before fleeing in a grey sedan, according to McMullen.

Officers Gale Stauffer and Joseph Maher were responding to a bank alarm and a report that the suspect had fled in a white SUV when they spotted such a vehicle stalled in traffic, McMullen said. The officers were confronting the SUV's driver when the suspect exited the gray sedan, which was stopped behind the SUV, and ambushed the officers, according to McMullen.

Stauffer died and was buried Friday after a funeral attended by as many as 1,000 people. Dozens of uniformed officers from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and elsewhere attended the service.

Stauffer's wife, Beth, said her family was grateful for investigators' work and for the support they've received.

"We can truly begin the healing process, and that could not have happened without the hard work of so very many," she told reporters Sunday. "Gale would be so proud."

Read more in Monday's Times Free Press.

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