By Robbie Ward/Daily JournalTUPELO – The Oklahoma man identified Sunday as responsible for murdering a Tupelo police officer and critically wounding another last week had a history of a mental instability dating back at least three years.
Mario Edward Garnett, 40, of Oklahoma City, Okla., was charged with making threats against President Obama in 2010 on the White House website and sentenced to eight months in prison and three years’ supervised release. He was released from federal prison in July of this year after serving time for violating that supervised release.
He died Saturday in Phoenix, Ariz., in a shootout with police after he robbed a bank. FBI agents say he’s the same man who shot two Tupelo police officers – killing one – after a bank robbery on South Gloster Street on Dec. 23.
Garnett, who served four years in the Army, was originally sentenced on June 28, 2011, for threatening the president but didn’t serve the full prison sentence. It was not clear from an examination of court records how much of the sentence he actually served.
A federal judge placed Garnett on supervised home curfew three months after he was sentenced for telling his mental health counselor that he should be “put to death.”
“Instead of actively participating in treatment per condition, Mr. Garnett rants and makes threats,” Sept. 23, 2011, court records showed. Two months later Garnett was ordered back to prison.
Garnett left an Oklahoma federal prison six months ago and was no longer required to check in with a probation officer.
FBI investigators identified him as responsible for robbing a man at an Atlanta bank after attempting to rob the bank and then driving to Tupelo, where he shot and killed Sgt. Gale Stauffer and shot patrol officer Joe Maher, critically wounding him. FBI agents have given no explanation of why Garnett chose Tupelo as a location to rob a bank. No court documents or other materials available to the Daily Journal indicated he had any connections to the city.
TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – Authorities have identified the man believed to be the Tupelo bank robbery suspect who shot two police officers, as 40-year-old Mario Edward Garnett, who’s from Oklahoma City.
Garnett was fatally shot by police Saturday in another bank robbery attempt in Arizona.
Surrounded by law officers and family members of fallen Tupelo police officer Sgt. Gale Stauffer, the FBI Special Agent in Charge made a much anticipated announcement.
“We believe that the suspect who robbed the bank yesterday morning in Phoenix, Arizona, and who later was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with a Phoenix police detective is the same individual who is responsible for the attempted bank robbery in Atlanta, the robbery of the BancorpSouth in Tupelo and the shooting of Officer Joesph Maher and the murder of Officer Gale Stauffer, ” said FBI Special Agent In Charge, Daniel McMullen.
It all began on Monday morning when a man attempted to rob an Atlanta bank. He was unsuccessful and proceeded to rob a customer at the ATM.
Police say the suspect then drove to Tupelo where his crime spree continued at the Bancorpsouth branch on South Gloster.
“In route to the bank, officers Stauffer and Maher observed a white tahoe SUV stopped in traffic on south gloster street. The officers immediately confronted the driver of the SUV. While the officers were engaged with the driver, the robber exited a gray sedan, which was stopped behind the tahoe, and ambushed the officers,” McMullen said.
The suspect fled and a nationwide manhunt began. A special tip line was established and a reward for the suspects capture grew to more than 200 thousand dollars.
Agents pursued hundreds of leads throughout the week. Similarities among the robberies in Atlanta , Tupelo and Phoenix pointed to the same suspect.
“Similarities included the clothing worn by the subject, statements the bank robber uttered during the robberies. In addition the FBI obtained a court order to reviews the cell phone records of the subject, which indicated his phone was in Atlanta, Tupelo and Phoenix at the time of the robberies,” McMullen said.
Sergeant Stauffer’s wife thanked law enforcement officers and the community for their support through the tragic time.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for shining your light in this time of darkness. Thank you to all the agencies who worked tirelessly to get this job done. You will forever be in our prayers. You have made it possible to move forward toward finding peace for the long road ahead. Gale would be so proud,” said Beth Stauffer.
As the city continues to mourn its fallen hero, investigators say the investigation is ongoing.
Meantime, officer Joseph Maher, who was also shot by the bank robber, continues to improve.