Slain Mississippi police officer was son of pastor Kelvin Croom, Alabama football player & coach Sylvester Croom’s nephew

A police officer killed Thursday evening in Mississippi was a member of one of Tuscaloosa’s most prominent and admired families.

Meridian Officer Kennis Croom was shot to death Thursday evening.

A woman, now identified at Brittany Jones, was also found dead at the scene. Dante Marquez Bender was taken into custody Friday morning.

Officer Kennis Croom, 30, was supposed to be off Thursday but opted to work anyway, Meridian Police Chief Deborah Young said at a Friday press conference. “He chose to come in and serve, which is what he was known to do regularly,” the chief said, according to WLBT Channel 3. “He was the definition of a true hero, and his legacy will go on.”

“He advised that he had one at gunpoint. Shortly afterward, he advised shots were being fired,” Young said.

The second officer on the scene reported that Croom had been shot.

Police later discovered Brittany Jones dead inside the home. Jones, who was pregnant, was Bender’s fiance, and the mother of four other children. Facebook photos on Jones’ page show Bender in a Newton Police Department uniform.

Kennis Croom was the son of Kelvin Croom, senior pastor at College Hill Baptist Church and a former University of Alabama football player.

Kennis Croom was also the nephew of Sylvester Croom Jr., an All-America football player at Alabama who was one of the Crimson Tide’s first African-American stars in the early 1970s.

Sylvester Croom later worked for many years as an assistant coach at Alabama and in the NFL, and in 2003 became the first Black head football coach in the Southeastern Conference when he was hired at Mississippi State.

2020 Alabama Sports Hall of Fame inductees

Longtime college and NFL coach Sylvester Croom addresses reporters before the DEX Imaging/Reese’s Senior Bowl 24th annual L’Arche Football Preview on Thursday night at the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell Center. Croom is the Senior Bowl’s new senior vice president of operations.Mike Kittrell |

The late Sylvester Croom Sr., Kennis’ grandfather, was regarded as among the most important civil rights leaders in Tuscaloosa during the 1960s and 70s.

He later served as chaplain for the Alabama football team and was a trusted advisor to legendary Crimson Tide coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“We can’t find words to express how distraught we are,” College Hill Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa posted on Facebook.

“We all received the news of Kennis’ passing in different ways but we all reacted the same, heart wrenching sadness and disbelief. Our deepest sympathies are extended to Pastor Croom, Ms. Tracy, Tamara, Kevin, Teresa and the extended Croom family and close friends. God we put all trust in you to guide us through this difficult time. We love you Kennis. Our hero forever more,” the post continued.

Tuscaloosa police today will escort the body of Officer Kennis Croom once his funeral procession arrives in the county from Mississippi.

According to WTOK-TV in Meridian, the Croom family is asking that any memorials come in the form of donations to the Croom Foundation, which is operated by Kennis Croom’s brother, Kevin.

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