By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
A man accused of fatally shooting an off-duty Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper “was protecting himself and two younger family members,” the suspect’s wife said in a statement Thursday.
Troy Anthony Eaton 43, of Rienzi, is charged with capital murder in the shooting of off-duty MHP Trooper Josh Smith near the Alcorn County/Tippah County line last month.
Eaton’s wife, Lori Eaton, of Rienzi, issued the below statement to Corinth Today on Thursday:
“We are unsure about the details of why the altercation started. Anthony was protecting himself and two younger family members.”
Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain was not immediately available Thursday evening to respond to Lori Eaton’s statement.
Lori Eaton also asked everyone to, “Please pray for all the families involved.”
Smith, 32, died of a single gunshot wound to the head/face. It appears Eaton was sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle when he allegedly shot Smith, who was apparently standing outside the vehicle, Tippah County Coroner Chris McCallister said this week.
The preliminary autopsy report is complete, said McCallister, adding that he may receive a toxicology report from the state crime lab at some point.
The shooting occurred in Big Hatchie Bottom about halfway up a steep gravel road near the Waldon Bridge, which is close to County Road 202 in Tippah County. Authorities found Smith deceased at about 12:45 a.m. Sept. 30.
Smith had been a trooper since 2007 and is remembered by many as a family man, dedicated officer and a good person who loved helping others.
Law enforcement from around the state, as well as Gov. Phil Bryant, attended Smith’s memorial service in Corinth last week.
Eaton grew up around County Road 518 in Alcorn County. Some neighbors of Eaton said he was a hard worker who did roofing projects and various other carpentry work with his dad. Some people in the area have known him since he was a boy and never knew him to be violent.
Rickie Dale Vick, 38, of Michigan City, was also shot and transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Eaton has also been charged with attempted murder in the incident as well as the capital murder charge.
Earlier this month, Lori Eaton said her husband is a “very good man” and said, “This is a very bad situation.”
“We are grieving for the Smith and Vick families,” Lori Eaton said in her statement issued Thursday.