PERRY COUNTY, MS (WHLT) – The son of the man who was arrested for reports of gunshots near Camp Shelby says it was all just a prank.
Alfred Baria, 61, is still awaiting his bond hearing for the charges he picked up in relation to the incidents on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Officials say he disturbed the peace by what he says was just him backfiring his truck on purpose.
“He just got the truck a couple of months ago and found out he could do it…It’s just something he does for fun while he’s going to pick up supplies…He just makes his truck backfire. He didn’t know any of the other shootings at the others camps so he probably wouldn’t have done it if he knew because we don’t watch the news or anything,” said Alfred Baria Jr., Baria’s son.
On Wednesday, we learned the soldiers who reported hearing sounds of gunshots during training at Camp Shelby did not see a gun when the driver of a maroon pick up sped off.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation took him into custody at gunpoint, with officials calling a bomb squad into sparsely populated Perry County east of Hattiesburg to investigate plastic pipes and other items they found in the truck.
After he was arrested on Highway 29 Wednesday, Baria was not only charged for disturbing the peace, he was also charged for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
But the 61-year-old Baria told authorities that it wasn’t gunshots at all, just the backfiring of his battered Isuzu. Alfred Baria Jr. said his dad’s pickup backfires loudly every time someone shifts gears and steps on the gas.
And those pipes? Two big, long ones were for plumbing a newly built auto repair shop in the backyard, Alfred Baria Jr. said. Small pipe containers with caps were for storing auto parts and hardware, he said, showing a reporter one on a shelf inside the shop.
His father though, is in trouble, charged not only with four misdemeanor counts of disturbing the peace but also two felony counts of being a felon in possession of a gun. Alfred Baria Jr. said the rifle and pistol were his, and he didn’t realize that his father, previously convicted on drug charges, couldn’t be anywhere on the property with them.
Those guns were not found in his truck, they were found at his home during the investigation.
At Camp Shelby, guards at all base entrances were armed under a recent order from Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Col. Christian Patterson said. After the second incident, Bryant said in a statement that the shootings underscored why he signed that executive order July 20.
“The soldiers at Camp Shelby and across the state can and should take appropriate steps to defend themselves as necessary,” Bryant said.
The large military base south of Hattiesburg is one of the premier training facilities for National Guard troops from across the country and during the height of the Iraq war was often the last stop for National Guard troops training to go to the Middle East.
The base is hosting about 4,600 active-duty soldiers, National Guard and reservists from Texas and Mississippi in a summer training exercise.
This summer’s training focuses on teaching troops how to operate on the platoon level — generally about 30 soldiers to a group, although that can vary.