Coach stable after shooting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2004

COATOPA – An armed-robbery on Sunday morning at the Oak Tree Lounge put the club owner in the hospital with a gunshot wound and has landed three local residents in prison on robbery and assault charges.

Sumter County Sheriff Johnny Hatter said his office received a 911 call at 4 a.m. Sunday Morning from Jesse Bell, owner of the Oak Tree Lounge. Bell told law enforcement that he had been shot during an armed robbery while closing his business.

Along with owning the Sumter County club, Bell also is the head boys basketball coach at Demopolis High School and assistant coach for the varsity football team.

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According to Hatter, Bell said he was walking out of the back door from his nightclub in the early Sunday morning hours when two gunmen rushed him and demanded that he give them the night’s receipts.

Bell apparently told the two that the money had already been taken from the club by another employee, but that didn’t stop the suspects from assaulting the popular Demopolis coach. When trying to escape the robbers, Bell was shot in the leg as he ran back toward his building. Hatter also said Bell reported that his truck had been taken by one of the robbers as they fled the scene.

“We responded to the crime and started to investigate what happened at the club,” Hatter said.

He said after they started to investigate the crime scene, the deputies had one suspect, Willy Bell Allen, Jr., 20, of 46 Allenwood Lane in Jefferson, in custody within a couple hours after the crime happened.

After further investigation, along with help from the Demopolis Police Department, three more suspects were arrested on Tuesday.

Jesse James Shepherd, 24, of 306 Earl Street, Demopolis, Michelle Lacetta Shepherd, 26, of 306 Earl Street, Demopolis and Shimego Howell, 22, of 306 Earl Street, Demopolis have been charged in the shooting.

“All four of the suspects arrested are currently being held in the Sumter County Jail,” Hatter said.

He said Allen and Jesse Shepherd are each being held on $25,000 bond for first-degree robbery and first-degree assault.

Howell and Michelle Shepherd are being held on $15,000 bond on charges of first-degree robbery.

“The case remains under investigation and more charges and arrests are possible,” Hatter said.

Doug Goodwin, athletic director and head football coach at Demopolis High said Bell received a fractured femur from the gunshot to his hip. He also said doctors inserted a metal rod in Bell’s hip during the surgery.

“He’s in good condition and he should be out on Wednesday,” Goodwin said.