BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- A Mississippi police officer shot and killed a woman even as the woman was fatally shooting the officer and his partner in the parking lot of a Gulf Coast motel on Wednesday, authorities now say.
Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said in a statement and interviews that body camera footage, autopsies and other forensic tests have helped to clarify what happened during the encounter.
Tindell said Amy Anderson, a 43-year-old Ocean Springs veterinarian, had checked into a motel in Bay St. Louis before dawn on Wednesday with her 8-year-old daughter and then asked the motel manager to call police.
“She thought someone was following her,” Tindell told the Sun Herald of Biloxi. “It appears she had a mental break.”
Bay St. Louis officers Branden Estorffe, 23, and Sgt. Steven Robin, 34, arrived and spent 40 minutes talking to Anderson, who officials say told officers that she believed someone was following her in a white pickup truck and was threatening her life.
After the officers decided to call state Child Protection Services, Anderson and the daughter began loading Anderson’s brown Toyota Highlander to leave the motel. Tindell said body camera footage shows that Robin was still interacting with Anderson when she shot Robin once in the head from the driver’s seat of the SUV at 4:19 a.m.
Estorffe approached, exchanging shots with Anderson that ultimately killed both the second officer and the woman. Anderson died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Tindell said an autopsy and other forensic testing showed the round that killed her came from Estorffe’s gun. That contradicts the initial statement from state investigators on Wednesday that they believed Anderson had shot and killed herself.
Robin died in the parking lot. Estorffe, died a short time later at a hospital.
The girl wasn't injured in the shooting.
The two officers will be buried in a joint funeral on Wednesday in Bay St. Louis, even as tributes to their service continue. Hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday at a high school in Bay St. Louis, a city of 10,000 people about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Biloxi. They included Robin's wife, Estorffe's father and sister, and other relatives.
“They loved coming to work and being officers, putting on the uniform and going out there every day to serve,” Bay St. Louis Police Chief Toby Schwartz said earlier in the day. “Branden and Steven were trusted colleagues and outstanding officers whose passion was to help others and provide public service. That was evident leading up to their final sacrifice during yesterday’s tragedy.”
Robin was a 12-year employee of the department and shift supervisor.
“He took his role in mentoring others quite seriously,” Schwartz recalled. “He knew it was his job to make great cops out of young rookies. And he truly embraced his place as their role model in the profession.”
Estorffe, whose father also has been a law enforcement officer, graduated from high school in the nearby Louisiana town of Slidell and started work in Bay St. Louis in July 2021.
Schwartz called him an “exceptional cadet who was truly going places in law enforcement and in our police department."
“Branden’s sense of humor always led to a good story. He could lighten anyone’s load with his wit and charm. When we as law enforcement lose our brothers and sisters, it hurts bad,” Schwartz said.
Estorffe's girlfriend, Madison Bartlett, wrote online that Estorffe loved her daughter as if she were his own, teaching Bartlett “what it's like to be loved."
“You brought me so much happiness,” she wrote. “My favorite part of my day was you. You brought me out of such a hard time. You were patient, kind and loving. The most selfless person I know. I don’t want this life without you. I love you forever Branden Estorffe.”
Lily Estorffe said Branden was her “only blood brother” and the best sibling she could have asked for.
“Branden Estorffe, words cannot express how much my heart is shattered,” she wrote. “I miss you so much. it’s not fair to know that you are gone. You have always been the light of my life.”