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Man Arrested for Noises Near Camp Shelby; Unclear if Gunfire

Camp Shelby

NEW AUGUSTA, Miss. -- The man authorities say made loud noises outside a Mississippi military base on consecutive days was charged Wednesday with disturbing the peace and illegally possessing weapons, but investigators are still trying to determine whether the sounds were gunshots or his pickup truck backfiring.

Soldiers training at the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center had reported shots fired into the air Wednesday in the same area where soldiers reported gunshots from a pickup truck a day earlier, Lt. Col. Christian Patterson said.

Perry County Sheriff Jimmy Dale Smith said police arrested Alfred Baria, 61, who claims he can make his maroon Isuzu pickup backfire on command. Smith said officials were still questioning Baria and wouldn't say whether they believe Baria was firing a gun or his truck was backfiring.

Baria was charged with four misdemeanor counts of disturbing the peace related to the noises. He was also charged as a felon illegally possessing guns after authorities searched his house and found a rifle and a pistol. Baria was previously convicted on drug charges, Smith said.

Video from two television stations show authorities taking a man into custody Wednesday. A small maroon pickup truck is pulled off the side of the highway. Two long pieces of white PVC pipe are visible sticking out of the back of the bed of the pickup

In the video, the driver gets out with his hands raised and backs out toward two armed law enforcement officers. The man lowers himself to his knees, lowers his arms and clasps his hands behind his back. The video ends at that point.

Photos from the scene show officers going through the truck.

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said that "just out of an abundance of caution," a bomb dog was being dispatched to where the man had been taken into custody.

At Camp Shelby, guards at all base entrances were armed under a recent order from Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Patterson said. After the second incident, Bryant said in a statement that the shootings underscored why he signed that executive order July 20.

"The Soldiers at Camp Shelby and across the state can and should take appropriate steps to defend themselves as necessary," Bryant said.

The area of the reported shootings is near a checkpoint at the post. Authorities were quick to point out that shooting took place outside the base perimeter.

"This incident occurred along the eastern edge of Camp Shelby. It did not occur on the base," County Sheriff Jimmy Dale Smith said at a news conference.

The large military base south of Hattiesburg is one of the premier training facilities for National Guard troops from across the country and during the height of the Iraq war was often the last stop for National Guard troops training to go to the Middle East.

The base is hosting about 4,600 active-duty soldiers, National Guard and reservists from Texas and Mississippi in a summer training exercise.

This summer's training focuses on teaching troops how to operate on the platoon level -- generally about 30 soldiers to a group, although that can vary.

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