Harrison County on Monday hosted an “End of Watch Ceremony” at Floral Hills Cemetery for a fallen deputy who died in the line of duty 45 years ago to the day.
Patrolman Earl Phillips was shot and killed on Feb. 19, 1973 after stopping a juvenile he observed speeding in a suspicious car on Landon Road north of Gulfport.
At the time of the murder, the suspect was AWOL from the US Army. He had returned to his home county and was staying with his parents. Prior to the murder, he had been told Deputy Phillips had been asking about a vehicle that matched the description of the one the suspect was driving. The suspect told several people if he came into contact with Deputy Phillips or any other officer he would kill him.
On the day of the murder, Deputy Phillips was on patrol and passed the suspect, who was driving the suspicious vehicle. Deputy Phillips turned around and began pursuit of the suspect, which ended when the suspect wrecked his vehicle.
Deputy Phillips came upon the crash, exited his patrol car and went to check on the suspect. The suspect exited the overturned vehicle and shot Deputy Phillips in the abdomen once with a shotgun loaded with #1 buckshot. Deputy Phillips, who was unarmed at the time of the incident, died at the scene.
The suspect fled in the patrol car and made his way back to his parents’ house. He was arrested there by officers a short time later and confessed to the murder after being encouraged to due so by his father. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Deputy Phillips had served with the agency for 20 years.