Police Officer Related to Former SEC Football Coach Sylvester Croom Shot, Killed in Mississippi

Meridian, Mississippi, police officer Kennis Croom was shot and killed while answering a domestic violence call. He was a member of the Croom family of Tuscaloosa, which is well known in football.

Kennis Croom was part of a family connected to the University of Alabama that includes an uncle, Sylvester Croom, who was an assistant coach at Alabama and in the NFL and was the first Black head football coach in the SEC when he coached at Mississippi State University.

Investigators say 31-year-old Dante Marquez Bender was taken into custody today, the day after Kennis Croom was fatally shot. A woman believed to be Bender’s girlfriend or fiancee, Brittany Jones, also was found dead at the scene where Croom was shot, authorities said.

Croom was the first officer to respond to a call about a disturbance at a home and informed a dispatcher “he had one at gunpoint,” police said. Soon after, he reported that shots were being fired.

A second officer arrived to find Croom on the ground and Bender gone, police said. Officers went inside and found Jones dead.

Bender was arrested in Ackerman, Mississippi, about 80 miles north of Meridian.

Bender was fired in January just a few months after being hired as a police officer in Newton, Mississippi, said Chief Randy Patrick. The reason for his departure wasn’t immediately clear, Patrick said.

Kennis Croom, 30, worked with the Jackson Police Department previously and was honored by Tuscaloosa police in a statement shared on social media.

“Officer Croom served his community with bravery and selflessness. His sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Tuscaloosa police said.

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