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Two arrested in shooting death of off-duty deputy

Gastonia police arrested two men they believe are connected to the fatal shooting of a Mississippi sheriff's deputy during an apparent robbery this morning outside a motel.

Frederick Gaston III, a detective with the Jackson County, Miss., sheriff's department, was on his way to Virginia for two weeks of Air Force Reserve duty when he stopped at the Microtel Inn on Broadcast Street to sleep, said Gastonia Police Sgt. Jimmy West.

Gaston, 49, who was married with children, had left his room to go to his truck when he was approached by two men, who apparently tried to rob him, West said this afternoon.

“Witnesses said there was no resistence, they just shot,” he said. “He was just a victim of circumstance, in the wrong place at the wrong time. All indications are that it was completely random.”

Gastonia police charged Rakcam Jamall Fleming, 16, of Gastonia and Tommy Dean Barnette Jr., 18, of Bessemer City, with first-degree murder, West said. Barnette was also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Both will get their first court appearance Monday at 2 p.m. at the Gaston County Courthouse, he said

Gaston was shot in the chest and managed to run into the motel's lobby before collapsing. He was taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital, where he died.

West said Sheriff Mike Byrd in Pascagoula, Miss., told him Gaston had two weeks more of reserve duty until he could retire from the Air Force. Before taking the job with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Gaston was police chief in Moss Point, Miss.

“The sheriff is really shaken about it,” West said. “You don't become a chief of police anywhere without being a decent person and a good officer.”