Tippah County, MS – Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) Trooper Kenneth Joshlin “Josh” Smith was gunned down as he was socializing with friends in the early morning hours of Sep. 30.
Trooper Smith, 32, went to the Hatchie Bottom area near the border of Tippah County and Alcorn County on the night of Sep. 29, where he planned to ride ATVs and hang out with friends, multiple official sources from numerous agencies told the Clarion Ledger.
According to witnesses, 43-year-old Troy Eaton was also at the recreational area, and had brought methamphetamine with him.
Trooper Smith had a brief confrontation with Eaton, and made it very clear that he was a law enforcement officer and that he wouldn’t tolerate drug activity in the area, the Clarion Ledger reported.
"Any law enforcement officer at any given time might have to act in that given capacity at any time to prevent injury to another," MHP spokesperson Johnny Poulos told the news outlet in the wake of the trooper’s murder.
The situation between Trooper Smith and Eaton seemed to quickly dissipate, and the gathering continued into the night.
But around midnight, Trooper Smith and his brother-in-law, 38-year-old Rickie Vick, approached Eaton as Eaton was sitting in his Jeep.
Eaton pulled out a handgun, fatally shooting the trooper, witnesses said.
He then shot Vick in the abdomen before he ran off into the woods.
Trooper Smith was pronounced dead at the scene just before 1 a.m.
Vick suffered non-life threatening injuries, and was taken to a local hospital.
Investigators initiated a manhunt for the shooter with the assistance of state, local, and federal law enforcement officers, WTVA reported.
Eaton ultimately surrendered at approximately 5:30 a.m., and was taken into custody for the capital murder of Trooper Smith.
As he was being led into his initial court appearance in Ashland on Tuesday, Eaton told the media he had shot Vick and Trooper Smith in “self-defense,” the Clarion Ledger reported.
Trooper Smith, an 11-year veteran of the agency, served in the MHP’s Special Operations Group, motorcycle patrol, and SWAT units during his career, according to his obituary.
“While friends and family always held a fear of the unknown that comes with a career dedicated to serving others, Josh served fearlessly in whatever capacity he was needed to fill,” his obituary read.
Trooper Smith, a married father of two, was described by friends and family as a “devoted father and husband.”
“He worked hard to provide for his family making sure their needs were met before his own,” according to his obituary. “Family was the most important thing in life.”
“While Josh leaves a void that will never be filled, the pride that his family and friends have for the outstanding man he was will carry on forever,” his obituary read.
Law enforcement officers from nearly every state in the country attended Trooper Smith’s funeral service on Thursday, the Clarion Ledger reported.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant was among those in attendance.
"He is another fallen hero we tragically lost during the last week,” the governor said in a tweet. “These attacks on our law enforcement must stop. Please pray for his family and friends.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Joshlin “Josh” Smith, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.