ACKERMAN -- A 14-hour manhunt for a man who allegedly killed his fiancée and a Meridian police officer ended when he was captured at Ackerman Express, formerly known as Cagle’s Corner around 10:30 a.m. on June 10.
Dante Bender is accused of killing his fiancée Brittany Jones and Meridian officer Kennis Croom. Croom was responding to a domestic violence call at the home where Bender and Jones were when the shooting occurred.
A blue alert was sent out by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation alerting authorities and the public to be on the lookout for Bender. Fourteen hours later, Choctaw County Sheriff’s Department alerted the public through its app that Bender’s phone had been pinged in the area by U.S. Marshals around 9 a.m. on June 9.
Notice of Bender’s presence in the area became widespread as many people in Ackerman watched personnel from the U.S. Marshals, Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the Choctaw County Sheriff’s Department, Ackerman Police Department and Webster County Sheriff’s Department swarm a convenience store, located at the intersection of Mississippi Highway 12 and Highway 15 to apprehend Bender.
Many posted videos as the capture took place. Bender’s vehicle was parked on Highway 15 beside the store in an effort to hide. Those in the store said they believed Bender was waiting on breakfast during the apprehension.
There are 79.2 miles between Meridian and Ackerman and can be accessed by Highways 15 and 19.
Choctaw County Sheriff Brandon Busby said the department used a drone to help verify that Bender was in the area. Bender also was noticed by someone in the store, who alerted the owner and authorities. The Town of Weir Police Chief Dillion Cates posted a video on his Facebook page of officials removing his cuffs and Marshals placing fallen officer Kennis Croom’s handcuffs on Bender.
In a video posted on WTOK in Meridian, Bender told a reporter that it wasn’t him, and he didn’t do any of what is alleged he did.
A report from our sister paper, The Newton County Appeal, stated that Bender is apparently a 2008 graduate of Newton High School. He was terminated as a Newton Police Officer effective Jan. 18, 2022, according to a Newton County Appeal report from earlier this year.