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AUSTIN EDITION Two officers killed in Austin's adopted town

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina three months ago, residents of Wiggins, Miss., now have been dealt another great blow.

The southern Mississippi town, which was adopted in early November by Austin residents who want to help its hurricane-stricken residents, lost two police officers Sunday night when they were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.

Austin Mayor Bonnie Rietz passed along news of the incident Tuesday after receiving an e-mail from Pat Hardy, a Rotary Club member who is one of Austin's main contacts in Wiggins.

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"It's so sad," Rietz said after a city meeting Tuesday night.

Wiggins already was devastated by the hurricane, and these shootings have added even more sadness, she said.

"They're certainly in our thoughts and prayers," Rietz said, adding she plans to talk with others to see what local residents can do to show their sympathy for Wiggins.

In his e-mail, Hardy called the killing of the two officers a "tremendous blow." He asked for people to pray for his town's officials, chief of police and police department.

Officers Brandon Breland, 23, and Odel Fite, 48, the only Wiggins officers on duty at the time, went to help a woman who called about a domestic disturbance and were shot to death, allegedly by a 46-year-old man, according to the WLOX TV station in southern Mississippi. The suspect was arrested later that night.

Breland had a fiancée,; and Fite had a wife, three children and four grandchildren, according to the news station.

Some Austin residents are planning to travel in December to Wiggins to deliver donated items and help out, Rietz said. Austin Medical Center and Austin Public Schools already have collected items to send there, she said, and various other projects are going on to help with specific hurricane-related needs.

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