The man who shot and killed an off-duty Hopkinsville Deputy Thursday afternoon had a long history of run-ins with the law, including a drug conviction in McCreary County in 2016.
By Greg Bird
James K. Decoursey, 35, wanted in connection with the fatal shooting, was shot and killed by officers in Clarksville, Tennessee after they received a tip the suspect was spotted at a local hotel. Two Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputies and a U.S. Marshal confronted Decoursey as he left a restaurant, killing him during a confrontation after he refused repeated orders to surrender.
Decoursey was the lead suspect in the shooting of off-duty Hopkinsville Police officer Phillip Meachum Thursday afternoon. According to initial reports Meachum was off duty in a personal vehicle when he was apparently pulled over by Decoursey who was pretending to be a police officer. Other reports stated Meachum was attempting to assist another officer. The case is under investigation by the Kentucky State Police, and little official information has been released as of yet. It is unclear exactly what transpired during the altercation, but Meachum was shot and later died from his injuries.
Following the shooting police say Decoursey fled on foot to a stolen vehicle and left the area, apparently ending up in the Tennessee town of Clarksville, less than 30 miles away.
The shooting was only the latest in a lengthy list of illegal actions by the suspect in the case, who has had numerous convictions for drug and other offenses, including one in McCreary County.
According to local court records Decoursey was arrested in 2015 as McCreary County deputies spotted a suspicious vehicle parked at the Neal Cemetery. Decoursey was arrested after a search of the vehicle turned up several baggies of meth. The suspect reportedly said he was in the area to distribute the drugs.
He was indicted by the Grand Jury on two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of being a persistent felony offender.
In January 2016 he agreed to plead guilty on the trafficking charges after they were amended to Possession of a controlled substance first degree for a total of three years in jail. The paraphernalia charges carried a one-year sentence to run consecutively with the other charges.
The Persistent Felony Offender charges were dropped as part of the plea arrangement.
At the time of his latest arrest Decoursey reportedly was on parole for a previous drug-related conviction in Hopkinsville and that parole was presumed to be revoked after the McCreary Conviction and the five-year sentence added on to the end of the previous un-served sentence.
McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters stated he was unaware of Decoursey not being in custody until after the shooting.
“It was my understanding he was to serve at least three years, but only after this tragic incident did I learn that he was walking free,” Sheriff Waters said. “At no time was I informed of his release.”
“My deputies and I put long hours in investigating and preparing this case for prosecution,” he continued. “I fail to see how letting a habitual offender, from what I understand has had multiple chances of parole only to have it be revoked in the past, back on the streets has any benefit to society. Perhaps if he would have served the time he was sentenced to a fellow officer would still be alive today.”
At the time of Thursday’s shooting Decoursey was listed as an active fugitive after he walked away from a halfway house in February.
Decoursey apparently had a long history of drug-related and other convictions.
In 2002 he was convicted of a third-degree burglary charge, but received probation in the case. That probation was revoked three months later after it was ruled he violated the terms of his release.
A 2007 conviction in Christian County for criminal possession of a forged instrument earned him a three-year conviction, but he again, was granted probation. That probation was rescinded in 2011 after a judge ruled he failed to satisfy the release conditions.
A firearm enhanced meth trafficking conviction and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon in 2010 in Daviess County resulted in probation with the requirement he complete a three-year rehabilitation program.
In 2011 he pled guilty to charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of meth and drug paraphernalia, several other drug-related counts, fraudulent use of a credit card and criminal possession of a forged instrument in Christian County.
He was issued a 24-year sentence in that case, but was paroled in 2015.