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Escaped jail inmate allegedly killed pastor who stopped to help him after a motorcycle wreck on the highway, stole his truck, and then died in a fire during a shootout with police

 
Dylan Arrington (L) and Anthony Watts (R)

Dylan Arrington, left, and the man he allegedly killed, Reverend Anthony Watts, right. (Simpson County Sheriff’s Office; Facebook)

A man who escaped from a jail in Mississippi over the weekend is believed to have killed a pastor before dying in a house fire amid a standoff with law enforcement on Wednesday morning.

Dylan Arrington, 22, is allegedly the man at the center of the whirlwind events that left at least two people dead in the Magnolia State. The dizzying tale of violent woe involves numerous law enforcement agencies, crimes, and allegations across Mississippi and state lines.

According to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, Arrington was one of four men who escaped from the Raymond Detention Center, a facility 15 miles west of Jackson, on Sunday morning. During a Monday press conference, Sheriff Tyree Jones said the quartet appeared to have made their way out through breaches in a cell and roof of the jail.

“A breach was discovered in B-Pod,” the HCSO said in a press release posted just before 3:30 a.m. on the day in question. “A white Hinds County public works pickup truck has also been reported stolen.”

Attention, however, soon turned to a red pickup truck – and the fatal interaction that led to its theft and extant missing status.

Reverend Anthony Watts, the head pastor of St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church in D’Lo, Mississippi, stopped to help a man who had crashed his motorcycle on Interstate 55 on Monday night, according to Jackson Police Chief James E. Davis. For his Good Samaritan act, however, Watts was repaid by being shot several times. The assailant then stole his 2011 maroon Dodge Ram 1500, according to the HCSO.

“Based on information gathered from investigators, the suspect … fit the description of 22-year-old Dylan Arrington,” Davis said in comments reported by CBS News.

Watts died at the scene.

Those who knew Watts grieved his passing.

“We are all in some sort of grief moment, but we know that God has the upper hand,” Reverend Carl Burton, associate pastor at St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, said in comments reported by Jackson-based CBS affiliate WJTV. “We cast all of our cares upon him because he cares for everything that we have to go through, we have to deal with, even in this.”

“Reverend Watts was a person that loved everyone,” parishioner Vivan Ross told the TV station. “He didn’t meet no stranger. He would help you, do anything he could for you. He just loved everyone, and we loved him.”

“We are asking the residents of Braxton, Harrisville, and Old Pearl area to be aware of their surroundings and keep their house and vehicle doors locked,” the Simpson County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post containing an updated photo of Arrington and a different photo of the pickup truck. “Sources have named Arrington as a suspect in the murder and armed carjacking of Pastor Anthony Watts of Magee.”

That Tuesday evening post by the SSCO identified Arrington as having “known ties to Simpson County.” But later that same night, the wanted man is believed to have made his way to Leake County, an hour due north, and the statewide search focused its efforts there.

Leake County Sheriff Randy Atkinson says Arrington likely died in a house fire on Conway Road after a shootout early Wednesday morning, according to Jackson-based NBC affiliate WLBT.

“The fire was pretty big, and it caused a lot of damage,” Jones, who was at the location, told the TV station. “As you can see as well, we believe that there was someone inside the residence at the time the fire started. We can also confirm that at the time the fire started, there was an exchange of gunfire.”

Authorities are reportedly unsure how the fire started.

“Basically, one of the times he was shooting from the residence when he shot the window,” Atkinson told WLBT. “And it started smoking from that particular part of the house, and it just came up, I guess, spreading throughout the residence.”

One member of law enforcement was shot during the standoff, the sheriff said, but is recuperating and “doing good.”

The other three wanted men have been identified as Casey Grayson, Corey Harrison and Jerry Raynes. At least one of those men is now believed to be in Texas, according to Hinds County officials.

Authorities say the pastor’s truck has yet to be found, while the Hinds County truck has since been recovered.

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