Law enforcement agencies were at full force just days after Christmas 2018. In a small town in Itawamba County, Mississippi, the unthinkable happened, leaving a young child fearing for her life.
Authorities received a 9-1-1 disturbance call on December 30, 2018, at 12:30 pm. Thirty minutes after arriving on the scene, they realized just how grave the situation truly was and they knew they must act quickly.
A man who has now been identified as Nathan Shepard was holding a young 10-year-old girl hostage inside her home. After a quick assessment of the situation and the scene, law enforcement officers realized that the young child and the perpetrator were not alone - the child’s father, Paul Blackburn, who had been fatally shot inside the home long before the police ever arrived on the scene of the crime.
They knew the situation was delicate and they must do everything in their power to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the young child inside, all while trying to negotiate with Shepard.
Sources report on the state of the child after the initial 9-1-1 call: “The little girl then had a presence of mind and forethought enough to sneak into another room and call back. She told dispatch to tell deputies not to come to the door because he [Shepard] was standing there with a gun.” This act, alone, saved multiple officers’ lives and deemed her a strong hero in their eyes.
The hostage situation didn’t end quickly nor quietly. FBI agents, local police forces, and SWAT team members surrounded the house and attempted to negotiate with Shepard. The standoff lasted a grueling 32 hours.
“The dynamics of this case covered a broad range: an active barricade, a child in a hostage situation, one individual dead, and a gunman with nothing to lose. It was imperative we wait him out and keep him calm,” Itawamba County Sheriff, Chris Dickinson, reported.
Nearing the end of the standoff, officers could hear the young girl ask Shepard if she could use the restroom. This is when they knew it was time to make their move. When he released her and she was in the other room, officers shot and killed Shepard. “It was at that point the opportunity arose and we knew we had to end the situation,” Dickinson continued.
Following the shooting, the child was safely removed from the home. “The real hero in the story is the little girl. If not for her swift thinking, two deputies could have lost their lives,” Dickinson finished.
While this is certainly no way a family wants to close out a year, we are incredibly thankful that the young girl was rescued. Unfortunately, she will have a lot of mental and emotional recovery to overcome in the coming days as she processes through her fear from the entire scenario and as she mourns the loss of her father.
Please keep the young girl and her family in your prayers during this difficult time.