Video: Recent Arrest Prompts Lee County Sheriff To Warn Residents About Panhandlers

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TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – During the past week, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department has received a lot of complaints about an aggressive panhandler.

Although the suspect is behind bars on other charges,  authorities say women should be extra cautious and aware of their surroundings at all times.   WCBI’s Allie Martin has more.

Jandel Crutchfield is one of the newest professors at Tupelo’s Ole Miss campus.

She came here from Baton Rouge, where panhandlers are common.

“Usually my reaction, depending on how close they were to my car, speak up and say ‘I can’t really help you and then try to hurry and get into my car,” Crutchfield said.

Jandel and her family were still settling into their new home, when she heard that a man was targeting single women in parking lots, asking for money, and getting aggressive when they refused to help.

“My first thought was to call my mom, who also moved with us, and say, this is happening, so in a place where we might feel comfortable leaving a door unlocked for a few minutes, lock doors, close garages,” she said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Department encouraged the public to be on the lookout for the panhandler, who on one occasion, reportedly walked into the path of a car on the Natchez Trace Parkway,  forcing the female driver to stop.  Luckily, another car came along and the man ran off.

“What we feared was, this individual would be turned down by someone and he would move to a more violent state, we do know this particular individual, we were able to get a positive identification,” said Sheriff Jim Johnson.

Sheriff Johnson says 45 year old Johnny Ware, is the aggressive panhandler.  Ware is being held at the Lee County Jail under an MDOC warrant.

The sheriff says Ware would have a different story, just about every time he approached someone, and while asking people for money is not a crime, doing it under false pretenses can land you on the wrong side of the law.

“If we can prove the intent behind receiving the money was under some sort of false pretense, then certainly, we can file a suit,” Sheriff Johnson said.

And Jandel says she has a plan of action when someone really needs help.

“If you are at  a Kroger grocery store and I really want to help you and you’re not aggressive and it might be safe, hey, let’s go in so everybody can see us, what do you need, let’s get something out of the deli,” she said.

Also, Sheriff Johnson says there are many charities and churches in the area willing to help with food , money and clothing.

Categories: Crime, Local News

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