Accused JSU Shooter a Convicted Felon

By Gene Adams

Jackson State University says the investigation into the campus shooting in August is wrapped up. But one loose end has some students and prosecutors wondering why the suspect is not facing more charges.

When shots rang out on campus the first day of class, striking a student in the stomach, Jackson State students were shocked by the violence. But they may be more surprised to learn that Ryan Mack, the graduate student charged, is a convicted felon. Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Robert Taylor says the students might not be the only ones who are surprised.

"Initially, I'm sure they didn't know about it," said Taylor of JSU police, who handled the case and he says likely did not run a check of Mack's prior convictions.

In 1998 Mack pled guilty to selling cocaine. He never served time behind bars.

Currently Mack faces charges of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon on campus. Absent from that list is possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

"With a lot of law enforcement agencies the last thing they do is to top off their file and run NCIC [police database records], but sadly some law enforcement still don't [do it]," said Taylor.

Anthony Dean of JSU public relations says the investigation into the shooting is complete, and, "at this juncture we are not making any comments."

In September, JSU suspended the victim's fraternity and suspended two of his friends for one year. Kenneth Hair and Anthony Hales face disorderly conduct charges in the incident.

A Hinds county judge has since granted an injunction to let the students go to class while they appeal their suspension.

Meanwhile Mack, the son of a JSU professor, awaits his grand jury hearing on two charges, for now. "We are free to add the convicted felon in possession of a firearm when it gets here...It always looks ugly on an indictment to see a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. It just, that doesn't go down with a jury very well," said Taylor.

The US Attorney's office is also looking into why the charge of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon has not been filed.

The case against Mack will go to the grand jury in December.