VICKSBURG, Miss. — Rafael Arnez McCloud allegedly had killed once before. More than eight months later — and days after escaping a Mississippi jail — he appeared poised to kill again. Wielding a bloody knife, he held a man, a woman and their 5-year-old son hostage in a bathroom of their Vicksburg home.
But this time, he was the one who ended up dead.
Early Thursday, the 24-year-old wife and mother, who’d been allowed to leave the bathroom, returned with a handgun and fired one shot at McCloud, police said. She then untied her husband, who “took control of the weapon and fired additional shots, striking McCloud.”
The husband went outside and flagged down a motorist, who called 911. Neighbor Ollie Dixon saw him outside, “wounded and bleeding everywhere.”
“He wasn’t screaming,” Dixon told CNN affiliate WLBT. “He was just looking like he was in shock.”
Shock soon reverberated elsewhere around western Mississippi. People there had been on edge for over a week since McCloud escaped from jail after holding an employee hostage and stealing his clothes.
That set off an intense manhunt involving local, state and federal authorities. Its end — with the 34-year-old McCloud killed by his latest hostages — was “certainly not the outcome that we wanted,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said, but was a relief nonetheless.
Vicksburg police Capt. Sandra Williams said after the couple took down McCloud, “There’s no telling how many lives were saved.”
Ghosthunters find woman’s body
McCloud was awaiting trial in the death of 69-year-old Sharen Wilson, whose body was found in late June behind Kuhn Memorial State Hospital in Vicksburg.
The hospital, built in the 1830s and abandoned since its closing in 1989, remains popular among paranormal enthusiasts — as seen in an episode of “Ghost Asylum” filmed at the location — looking for lingering spirits.
In fact, ghost hunters alerted police after finding Wilson’s body near a tree line outside the hospital. A trail of fresh blood was inside the hospital, as reported by CNN affiliate WAPT.
“There was some trauma to the head and about the body,” Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong said then of Wilson.
It didn’t take long for authorities to pinpoint McCloud as the suspect. The charges subsequently filed against him suggest a horrific crime — sexual battery, rape, arson, home invasion, weapon possession by a felon, grand larceny auto theft and burglary, in addition to capital murder.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges in January. But investigators have said that McCloud admitted to kidnapping Wilson from her home and dumping her body in the grass behind the deserted, dilapidated hospital.
Gun rights advocates hold up case
Then, at about 6 a.m. on March 2, McCloud escaped the Warren County Jail in Vickburg, where he was awaiting trial in Wilson’s death.
He used a makeshift weapon to subdue a night shift employee at the jail, according to sheriff’s department investigator Mike Traxler. Then, McCloud forced him to give up his pants and jacket, and he walked out of the jail.
Afterward, Vicksburg police urged “citizens in the community to be alert at all times.” That meant, among other things, calling 911 immediately if they suspect a burglary, and taking weapons in from their car into their homes.
Now, many on social media are calling what happened Thursday morning in Vicksburg as a textbook example of why citizens should be armed — just in case they encounter someone like McCloud, they can act.
The National Rifle Association, the country’s leading gun rights group, reposted CNN.com’s story on its Twitter page, eliciting responses like, “Good for them, I’m sure if they weren’t armed, he would have killed them too.”
Some blasted those calling for gun control, while others expressed gratitude that this family had a firearm of their own.
One poster wrote, “Thank god they had a gun.”
Relief for a community ‘on edge’
The husband and his young son first ran into McCloud around 4 a.m. Thursday as they were going from inside the house to their garage, police said. Armed with a knife, the man forced them back inside.
He bound the family in the bathroom, but not very well. The husband “said he was able to free himself, fought with the suspect and sustained a stab wound to the back side of his shoulder,” according to Vicksburg police.
McCloud again restrained the man. Then at some point, and for an unexplained reason, he let the wife leave the bathroom.
She got a handgun, returned and shot McCloud once. After that, she cut her husband loose, and he too opened fire on McCloud. His body was found in the bathtub with multiple gunshot wounds.
With that, Vicksburg’s police chief said, “The hunt for Rafael McCloud (was) over.”
“It’s been a long, drawn out situation,” added Chief Armstrong. “… This community has been on edge for a very long time.”
Armstrong said it will be “part of our investigation to determine how many shots were fired.”
Karen Davis, a friend of Sharen Wilson, said she is glad there won’t be a trial, which she thinks “would have been a waste of taxpayer’s money.” She also told WAPT she’ll breathe easier knowing McCloud won’t hurt anyone else again.
“I’m not celebrating anyone’s death,” Davis said. “But I am very much relieved.”