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Official: Courthouse shooting suspect faced assault charge

August 5, 2015
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Authorities investigate Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Canton Miss. A man fatally shot a defendant waiting in a small courtyard outside a criminal courthouse in Mississippi on Monday morning, and a suspect is in custody, law enforcement officials said. The suspect has been arrested and is in jail, Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said, but he declined to identify him or the victim. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)
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Authorities investigate Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Canton Miss. A man fatally shot a defendant waiting in a small courtyard outside a criminal courthouse in Mississippi on Monday morning, and a suspect is in custody, law enforcement officials said. The suspect has been arrested and is in jail, Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said, but he declined to identify him or the victim. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)

CANTON, Mississippi (AP) — The man accused in a courthouse shooting was arrested last month on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a weapon, contradicting earlier statements by police that the suspect had never before been in serious trouble.

On Tuesday, Gwendolyn Miles, deputy court clerk in Canton’s municipal court, confirmed the June 28 charge against 24-year-old William B. Wells. As a felony, it was sent to Madison County Circuit Court, she said. No further details on the charge were immediately available.

Wells is accused of shooting a defendant outside the county courthouse in Canton on Monday. His bail was set at $300,000 on Tuesday. Officials are investigating whether Wells was retaliating for the Saturday shooting of his mother, Sherry Wells. She survived the shooting and had been scheduled to testify against the defendant, Kendrick Armond Brown.

Brown could have faced up to life in prison under Mississippi’s three strikes habitual offender law because of two earlier felony drug convictions.

Municipal court documents show Wells also pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge of firing a gun inside city limits. He was cited on that charge June 28 and pleaded guilty July 1, the same day he was arrested on the aggravated assault charge. Wells was sentenced to six months’ unsupervised probation on the gun charge, paying $512.75 in fines and court costs.

It was unclear whether either case should have prevented Wells from obtaining a firearm. A semiautomatic handgun was used in Monday’s shooting.

No records of the charge appeared in a Monday search of circuit court records by The Associated Press, but they would have appeared there only if Wells had already been indicted. Prosecutors could also decide to drop the charge.

The charge came to light after Wells told Madison County Justice Court Judge Mamie Wells he had been convicted of a charge in Canton during routine questioning during his bail hearing.

Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest expressed surprise that there was no record of Wells being processed through the Madison County Jail on the assault charge.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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