In Mississippi, a trespasser, a killing and DEA meddling

CRYSTAL SPRINGS, Mississippi (AP) -- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Harold Duane Poole was waiting with his semi-automatic service rifle -- and a statement -- when lawmakers arrived at his sprawling wooded property on a warm spring night last year and one bullet-riddled bodies found near the driveway.
Poole, a veteran of the DEA's military command teams, admitted he fatally shot a mentally ill neighbor just minutes after calling law enforcement to report the man was -- once again -- "mad" about his country entered and threatened him with a rock.
"I'm going to kill you!" Poole recalled Chase Brewer screaming before responding by firing eight high-power rounds, hitting the man in the chest, stomach and hip.
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Reports show that from the start, sheriff's investigators were skeptical of Poole's self-defense claim, largely because he mentioned in his plea for help that the intruder was already leaving. No rock of any kind could be found. And the shooting happened 200 yards from Poole's home, near the edge of his property, prompting lawmakers to determine Mississippi's "castle doctrine" didn't apply.
But just over a year after Poole was arrested for murder on April 27, 2021, he has quietly returned to work as a supervisor at the DEA office a half-hour drive north in Jackson after a grand jury that Spring turned down him to accuse
What happened to the case amidst the farm fields and pastures of Mississippi has left the murdered man's family confused and frustrated, and it's something neither local prosecutors, the DEA, nor Poole himself would discuss. But interviews and hundreds of law enforcement documents obtained by The Associated Press are raising new questions about the shooting's justification, how Poole avoided a trial and whether DEA leadership overdid it, one of theirs amid a spate of cases from to protect wrongdoing in the agency.
"No citizen could have done what that DEA agent did and walked away," said W. Lloyd Grafton, an expert on the use of force who reviewed the case file at the AP's request.
Former DEA wardens investigating the case for AP questioned the agency's stubborn involvement in the critical first hours, even though the shooting had no connection to federal law enforcement and Poole was off duty feeding his chickens when he spotted the intruder for the first time.
Several DEA agents responded to the crowded crime scene and a supervisor declared himself "responsible" and prevented state and local investigators from questioning Poole for at least 48 hours, citing an unspecified guideline, law enforcement records show. Later that night, the DEA's senior officer in New Orleans called the local sheriff after the deputies decided to arrest Poole. But by that time, the federal prosecutor had already left the scene to receive medical attention for being "concussed" — which he told DEA officials but not local authorities.
"They tried everything they could to get us not to charge him," Copiah County Sheriff Byron Swilley told the dead man's family the day after the shooting, according to a recording of the private conversation obtained by the AP.
"I've had people calling me from all over Virginia about this guy because he's an agent," he added, referring to DEA headquarters.
The deputies charged Poole anyway, the sheriff said, because it was apparent the agent didn't wait for law enforcement to arrive and "took the law into his own hands."
"If it's wrong, it's wrong," Swilley added. "You take someone's life over a stone?"
Hours after the shooting, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an internal finding that Poole was not acting within his duty and the DEA should contact local authorities, according to current and former law enforcement officials familiar with the case.
A former senior DEA official said the agency was still able to show its interest in the case and make a difference.
"They just had the DEA stalling and stalling a local investigation," said Karl C. Colder, a former DEA special agent in charge who also served as the agency's deputy chief inspector.
The DEA did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment.
Poole's shooting followed a series of misconduct scandals that have dogged the DEA for years.
Just weeks earlier, DEA Brass was responding to a separate controversy involving another off-duty agent, Mark Ibrahim, who posed for photos showing his DEA badge and firearm in front of the US Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots. Ibrahim is awaiting trial on four counts.
And just months before that case, a once-star DEA agent admitted to conspiring with a Colombian drug cartel to launder money. Sentenced to 12 years in federal prison, Jose Irizarry joins a growing list of former agents behind bars.
Poole, 48, has been in good standing with the DEA for more than two decades and serves as a group leader in the agency's Jackson District Office, which handles major drug trafficking cases in 32 Mississippi counties.
Beginning in 2013, Poole traveled the world with DEA's Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Teams, the military commands that fought drug traffickers in Afghanistan and Latin America. The so-called FAST teams were disbanded in 2017 after criticism over a series of deadly shootings in Honduras that occurred before Poole's overseas service.
Poole chronicled some of his adventures on Facebook and shared photos of himself in combat gear. One showed him firing an assault rifle somewhere in South America. "This has undoubtedly been the most rewarding time of my 21-year career," he wrote in a post in late 2016, before returning home to his family in Mississippi.
Poole and his neighbor Brewer, or the "guy from across the street" as the agent once described him, had known each other for years and were once so good together that Poole invited Brewer to his barbecues.
But bad blood had been brewing for months at the time of the shooting. Brewer repeatedly trespassed on Poole's 9-acre property and even attempted to enter the home through a bedroom window in September 2020, prompting Poole to draw his pistol, according to the indictment papers.
Brewer was rambling incoherently when deputies arrested him emerging from a creek armed with a pistol and two pocket knives.
Little Brewer, 47, an outdoor enthusiast and truck mechanic who lived in a trailer, was also regarded by his loved ones as a marvel of modern medicine. In 1996, he received a five-organ transplant at the University of Pittsburgh to replace his stomach, duodenum, pancreas, intestines and liver after suffering from intestinal failure due to a hereditary defect.
But Brewer began spiraling after suffering a stroke in 2019, his mother Andrea Breedlove said. He heard voices and his drug use expanded from marijuana to crystal meth. In the months leading up to Brewer's death, his mother attempted to house him, but learned that the University of Mississippi Medical Center did not have enough beds.
"Chase was a good, quiet neighbor for years — and then he changed," Breedlove said in an interview at her home. "He used to hallucinate and talk to people who weren't there. He needed help."
Poole, meanwhile, grew concerned for his family's safety and frustrated that his pleas to local law enforcement went unheeded. In October 2020, a month after the attempted burglary, following another incident, the agent's wife told deputies that Brewer had a habit of sneaking onto the property when Poole wasn't around. Brewer, who was chased away by Poole's dog in this case, falsely told the deputy who took him into custody that he was a law enforcement officer who, according to sheriff's records, "cannot be arrested."
So it didn't take long for Poole to recognize Brewer walking up his driveway on that fateful night in April 2021. At 6:57 p.m., Poole called the Copiah County Sheriff's Office 911 number to report the trespassing and request a deputy.
"Mr. Poole said he went in and got his rifle and when he came out Chase Brewer was gone," a sheriff's report said.
The agent followed Brewer to a road adjacent to his pasture, showed his badge, and ordered him to the ground. Instead, Poole told MPs, Brewer threw a rock and said, "I'm going to kill you!" At that moment, Poole raised his AR-15-style rifle and fired.
Three minutes after his first call, Poole called the sheriff's office again to report that he had shot Brewer for assaulting him.
"Mr. Poole said Chase Brewer was crazy and was just shooting up his trailer down the road," the sheriff's report said. An autopsy found meth in Brewer's system, a drug he was also carrying at the time of his death.
Even after Poole's arrest, MPs admitted they did not know the full extent of the encounter, partly because the agent never gave a full statement.
Some members of state law enforcement also questioned Poole's arrest. A Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agent Dennis Weaver told a judge in a preliminary hearing that he disagreed with the sheriff's decision to arrest Poole, although he acknowledged that he viewed critical body camera footage of the agent's statements to the MPs at the scene had not checked.
It's unclear why the grand jury dismissed the state's murder case, despite the sheriff's assurance to the Brewer family that he would seek "real justice."
Local prosecutor Daniella Shorter declined to speak about her handling of the case, and neither her office nor the sheriff would release the body camera footage, citing an investigation into the case by the Justice Department's office of the inspector general.
"Releasing it to the public would run counter to their efforts in the event of federal prosecution," said Elise Munn, a Copiah County prosecutor. The inspector general's office declined to comment.
For Brewer's family, the loss of a loved one was made worse by the lack of answers. At the very least, they want Poole to apologize or offer his condolences for his neighbor's death. But the agent, like the DEA, has been silent.
"He wanted Chase dead, that's all," said Breedlove, Brewer's mother. “It wasn't David versus Goliath. What did he intend to do with a stone?”
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Contact AP's global investigative team at investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/tips/

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