Neighbor recounts shootout that left US marshal dead

Neighbor recounts shootout that left US Marshal dead
Published: Mar. 11, 2015 at 2:22 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 11, 2015 at 10:01 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A woman staying at the motel where a shootout left a US marshal dead and a murder suspect badly wounded described what she saw and heard during and after the shooting.

The man accused of murdering a US marshal, his third alleged killing since Mardi Gras night, remained hospitalized Wednesday morning, as condolences continued to pour in from the law enforcement community for the fallen peace officer.

Jamie Croom, 31, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Deputy US Marshal Josie Wells, 27, of Mississippi. Wells had been with the US Marshals Service for four years.

The shooting happened Tuesday morning at the Elm Grove Motel in the Scotlandville area in what can be described as a scene of urgency met with heartache.

A woman who stayed at the motel with her husband was reeling from a startling realization about a man living next door to her.

"To be right here with somebody, interacting with them daily, it really shows you that you don't know people sometimes," the woman said.

She did not want to be identified, but said the neighbor she knew as "Jam-Jam" was friendly and helpful to her and her husband. She had no idea the violent history he was hiding. Her neighbor was Croom, a man with a long criminal record who was wanted for a double murder. The woman said she was having a hard time reconciling the man who invited her to play video games with the brutal scene she witnessed Tuesday morning.

"I was in my room and we heard the gunshots, at least 10 to 12 gunshots. I heard, 'Is anybody hit?' So, I knew it was a police officer then," she said.

A task force made up of law enforcement from the Baton Rouge area and the US Marshals Service went to the motel to arrest Croom and a shootout followed.

"When we looked out the door, we saw them bringing out the federal marshal. You could tell he was wounded very bad. They put him in the truck and tried to get him to the hospital," she added.

Law enforcement officials said Croom shot Wells. The witness said she saw Wells' fellow officers desperately trying to stop the bleeding. Deputies then raced with Wells to Lane Regional Medical Center, where he soon died. Croom was also hit. Paramedics took him to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. He now faces a federal murder charge for Wells' death.

"I believe it was just a tragedy, because it's, when something like this happens, all you can do is pray about it pretty much," she explained.

Prayers are going out for Wells' family. Wells had a brother who works for the Jackson Police Department in Mississippi. There was a post about it on the department's website.

"Our 40th police recruit class is praying for one of our classmates," it read. "He lost his brother who is a US marshal, who was killed in the line of duty. Keep him uplifted prayer warriors."

Louisiana State Police also issued a statement about the tragedy.

"LSP offers our deepest condolences to the family of Deputy US Marshal Josie Wells and the entire US Marshals Service," it read. "Deputy Marshal Josie Wells was shot and killed as he and other members of the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force attempted to serve an arrest warrant on a double-murder suspect in Baton Rouge, Louisiana this morning. Deputy Marshal Wells was assigned to the Southern District Office in Mississippi."

Officials said the US Marshal's Fugitive Task Force was searching for Croom. He was wanted in connection with the New Roads double homicide that left a brother and sister dead on February 18. He is accused of shooting Sinica and Lechelle Williams in the parking lot of the Sugar Shack Bar on Mandela Lane in New Roads.

Croom had been arrested six times since 2000, with the last one less than a year ago.

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