Investigation Discovery’s ‘Hostage 911: Call Me When the Priest Comes’ chronicles how 43-year-old Nathan Shepard abducted a minor girl and used her as a hostage as he attempted to negotiate his way out of a standoff with law enforcement. The events played out in the Golden community in Mississippi in late December 2018. If you’re curious to learn what happened, including whether the police could rescue the minor safely, we’ve your back. Let’s dive in then, shall we?
Who Is Nathan Shepard?
43-year-old Nathan Shepard used a little girl named “Sweetie” (original name withheld) as a human shield for 32 hours during a standoff with local and state law enforcement officials on December 29-30, 2018. The two remained holed up inside a single-story house on Alice Hall Road in the Golden community in Mississippi, and he kept the minor at gunpoint. Throughout the impasse, Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department investigator Mike Newlin was the only law enforcement official speaking with “Sweetie” or Nathan.
Mike recounted, “Because Nathan and I had gained a rapport, we didn’t want to change any of that.” Nathan and Mike communicated 42 times throughout the standoff, alternating between calling each other. Three times, the two of them intercommunicated via text message. The calls ranged from just a few moments to nearly a half-hour. Their first conversation lasted eight minutes. However, Mike did not reveal much about their lengthy correspondence as the Mississippi Investigation Bureau was still investigating the events.
Mike recalled, “I gained as much information as possible with that first call. Nathan was very agitated and jittery in the beginning. He made it clear he didn’t want people coming in.” The initial contact aimed to assess the situation within the house, identifying occupants and checking for injuries. At that point, officials were unaware that the body of Paul Blackburn, allegedly shot and killed by Nathan, was inside the house. Mike remained in his patrol car, conversing with Nathan via cell phone, positioned just a few feet from the front of the house.
Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department deputy Josh Hill accompanied Mike throughout the standoff, actively listening to his discussions with Nathan and taking notes. After each conversation, they reviewed these notes, analyzing which topics appeared to agitate Nathan further or contribute to progress in achieving a peaceful resolution. Mike explained, “You’ve got to rely on things that he’s saying and build off of them to build that rapport. Once you get that rapport, if you’re able to, you get into the hard questions with him.”
Is Nathan Shepard Dead or Alive?
Mike explained that the negotiator’s challenge was to guide Nathan toward a resolution without overstepping boundaries. He added, “There’s a fine line there. They do get mad when you press a little too hard. But you have to recover because the goal is to resolve this.” However, the presence of the young hostage acted as an added threat, further complicating the complex situation. Mike stated, “She was all I could think about. I made sure that every contact I made with him, I was able to talk to her, to at least hear her voice to ensure she was OK.”
The officer added, “Hearing her voice, the innocence of a 10-year-old girl, there are no words to describe what I felt through any of this.” He referred to the experience as an emotional roller coaster — a constant ebb and flow of adrenaline, hope, and fear for 32 hours. Mike stated, “Of course, you’re exhausted. Everybody out there is exhausted. But that little girl is also exhausted. And she’s relying on you.” Sometime after 9:00 pm on December 30, SWAT team members shot and killed Nathan while he allowed “Sweetie” to use the bathroom.
Mike believes the events played out by the rules Nathan had himself imposed on law enforcement. He added, “The goal is to safely resolve any issue. That’s not always possible, and that’s not always because of us.” He emphasized the authorities had offered Nathan repeated chances to surrender peacefully, and he declined each of them, leaving the police with no other move. Mike stated, “He determined his death, not us. I’m not upset at all with how it ended. He made that decision.” The officers rescued “Sweetie” without further incident.