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Accused cop killer Dante Bender returned to Meridian

Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 5:57 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - 31-year-old Dante Bender has been returned to Meridian to face charges that he killed Police Officer Kennis Croom and Bender’s own fiancée, Brittany Jones, Thursday at a house in the 2400 block of 51st Avenue.

Bender was apprehended about 10:30 a.m. Friday in Ackerman, Miss. News 11′s Tom Williams was in Lauderdale County Justice Court for Bender’s initial appearance. In an exclusive, Bender said after the hearing he did not commit the crimes.

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Earlier:

At a brief news conference Friday, Meridian Police Chief Deborah Young addressed the public about the arrest of Dante Bender in the murder of Police Officer Kennis Croom and Bender’s own fiancée, Brittany Jones. She called the act “tragic and senseless.”

“He lost his life doing what he loved. He was full of passion, joy and dedication.”

Young said even though Thursday was Croom’s scheduled day off, he still chose to come into work. She said Croom was first on the scene to respond to a domestic violence call. The second responding officer found Croom ‘down’.

“To his family, we are praying for you,” said Chief Young. “I know there are no words to ease your pain.”

Young called Croom the definition of a true hero and said his legacy will live on.

“Pray for the families, the Meridian Police Department and this community,” Young said. “We also ask that this community come together and keep these officers lifted.”

The family of Kennis Croom also Friday thanked the public for its prayers and support. It asked that any donations be made to The Croom Foundation in his memory.

Kennis Croom
Kennis Croom(Family of Kennis Croom)
Meridian Police Officer Kennis Croom and Brittany Jones, the suspect's pregnant fiancee, died...
Meridian Police Officer Kennis Croom and Brittany Jones, the suspect's pregnant fiancee, died from a shooting that happened around 5:30 p.m. June 9, 2022, in the 2400 block of 51st Avenue in Meridian.(Tuscaloosa Police Department)

Bender was taken into custody at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Ackerman, Miss., after an extensive manhunt involving numerous law enforcement agencies.

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Earlier:

The Blue Alert issued for Dante Marquez Bender has been canceled. He was taken into custody in Ackerman, Miss., Friday morning. Bender was wanted in the killings of Meridian Police Officer Kennis Croom and his own fiancée, Brittany Jones, who was expecting a baby.

The family of Kennis Croom also Friday thanked the public for its prayers and support. It asked that any donations be made to The Croom Foundation in his memory.

Kennis Croom
Kennis Croom(Family of Kennis Croom)

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Earlier:

A multi-agency manhunt for murder suspect Dante Marquez Bender, 31 is still underway as of Friday morning. Bender is accused of shooting and killing a Meridian police officer in the line of duty Thursday.

Officer Kennis Croom and Brittany Jones, Bender’s pregnant fiancée, died from the shooting that happened around 5:30 p.m. in the 2400 block of 51st Avenue in Meridian.

Meridian Police Officer Kennis Croom and Brittany Jones, who was pregnant, died from a shooting...
Meridian Police Officer Kennis Croom and Brittany Jones, who was pregnant, died from a shooting that happened around 5:30 p.m. June 9, 2022, in the 2400 block of 51st Avenue in Meridian.(Tuscaloosa Police Department)

MHP Troop K Public Affairs Officer Cal Robertson confirms Croom’s body was escorted to the state crime lab in Biloxi off Highway 67 at 11:30 p.m. Thursday. News 11 has learned that Croom’s body will be taken to the Organ Recovery Center in Jackson.

Bender is a former police officer but was not currently working in law enforcement. He is considered armed and dangerous. Bender is a Black male, about 5’ 11” and 299 pounds. He is believed to be driving a 2004 Black Nissan Armada with a tag reading “IMANI.”

If you see Bender or come in contact with him, call 911 immediately. If you have any information on Bender or know his whereabouts, call 911 or East Mississippi Crime Stoppers at 1-855-485-8477. You may also call 1-855-642-5378 or send an email to MBITIPS@dps.ms.gov. All tips are anonymous.

A Friday news conference was initially set for 9 a.m. but was rescheduled for 12 noon Friday.

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Earlier:

Bender is wanted by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is handling the case. Bender is a Black male, about 5’ 11” and 299 pounds.

Bender is believed to be driving a 2004 Black Nissan Armada with a tag reading “IMANI.” Bender may be armed and dangerous. If you see him or come in contact with him, call 911 immediately.

If you have any information on Bender or know his whereabouts, call 911 or East Mississippi Crime Stoppers at 1-855-485-8477. You may also call 1-855-642-5378 or send an email to MBITIPS@dps.ms.gov. All tips are anonymous.

MBI is currently assessing this critical incident and gathering evidence. Upon completing their investigation, agents will share their findings with the local District Attorney’s Office.

The Meridian Police Department initially called a news conference for 9 a.m. Friday but rescheduled it for 12 noon Friday.

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Original Post:

About 5:30 p.m. Thursday, a call went out over police radios of an ‘officer down’ at the 2400 block of 51st Avenue.

The city of Meridian later issued a statement saying the police officer died. The city plans to have a news briefing at some point Thursday evening. The name was not immediately released.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updated information.

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Copyright 2022 WTOK. All rights reserved.