Night shift

Pike County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Thompson speaks with a man while on patrol during a recent night shift.

It neared 9:30 p.m. as Lt. Mark Thompson of the Pike County Sheriff’s Department approached a convenience store in Summit behind the wheel of his Ford police cruiser and noticed something unusual.

On the west side of the store and toward the back corner, somewhat obscured by an ice chest, sat a small white sedan with two occupants inside. It caught Thompson’s eye because the store is usually shut and employees gone home by then.

It was pitch dark with little traffic on that stretch of the road, and since convenience stores are particularly vulnerable to smash-and grab crimes, Thompson pulled into the parking lot, reached forward to his left and pointed a spotlight at the vehicle.

With a friendly wave, hello and his characteristic ear-to-ear smile, Thompson greeted the two people, who turned out to be teenagers doing a whole lot of nothing. But stops like this are characteristic of the shift of a deputy.

Thompson begins his shift in the evening around 5 and commands the patrol all the way until shift change in the morning.The McComb native said serving Pike County has always been his passion.

“For most of us, it’s a calling,” he said. “For me it’s a love and a calling.”

Trained in special weapons and tactics, tactical driving and other important skills, Thompson said he works hard to be a strong leader.

Sheriff James Brumfield surely noticed that leadership as he penned Thompson to lead the patrol.

He smoothly navigates all the roads in the county, explaining it’s especially important for law enforcement and first responders to be able to travel between any two points without using major roads.

Pulling into the parking lot of a Dollar General on the southern end of the county, Thompson said checking up on local businesses is one of the most important duties and services that the sheriff’s office provides. The practice helps business owners maintain a better sense of security and it deters crime.

But when things go wrong in the worst ways, sheriff’s deputies have got to be there, too.

Moments after arriving at the Dollar General, a call came over police radio alerting officers to an ongoing domestic dispute between multiple people at a house in the rural countryside near Summit.

Paying acute attention to the words coming over the radio, Thompson calmly stated his location and started to ride toward the northern end of the county.

Another call came over and within seconds Thompson had flipped on the flashing lights and blaring sirens on his cruiser, calmly maneuvering tight and swampy backroads to find his way to Interstate-55.

“I flash them to be safe and careful, to warn people, and also to keep animals out of the roadway,” he said.

As Thompson merged onto Interstate-55 at Osyka, he took to the passing lane and accelerated as vehicles pulled into the slow lane.  Asked if he enjoyed driving so fast, he quipped a smile.

“I’ve had a lot of training,” he said. “At first, I didn’t want to do it at all.”

He pulled up to a one-story home on a country road outside Summit. Thompson’s demeanor hardened and he explained that domestic violence situations can be tricky. Another deputy had arrived just before Thompson and was speaking with several women at the door.

Just off the property, the young man told Thompson that he and his girlfriend had been in a dispute over the custody of their children. He had arrived to the residence to collect one of the children and during the disagreement damaged a trash bin placed near a mailbox by the road.

Thompson listened attentively to the man and the other deputy approached the pair. The girlfriend involved decided to place a restraining order on the man. Thompson respectfully de-escalated the interaction by explaining to the man everything that the order did and didn’t mean and that he would still retain custody of his children.

Both deputies shook his hand and everyone was on their way.

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