Slain deputy US marshal was expecting baby boy with wife

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The deputy U.S. marshal killed in a shootout was expecting his first child: a boy, his wife learned the day after his death.

Channing Wells said Wednesday that the baby will be named Josie Wells Jr., after his father.

The last thing she told her husband was that she had an appointment - but not until next week - to learn whether the baby was a boy or a girl.

"The marshals took me to the hospital in Mississippi this morning so I could learn the baby's gender. ... It's bittersweet," she said Wednesday in a phone interview from Baton Rouge.

Josie Wells, 27, was killed on the outskirts of that city Tuesday in a shootout with a man suspected of killing two siblings outside a nightclub. The scene was about 130 miles from his home in the Jackson suburb of Raymond, Mississippi.

The suspect, Jamie D. Croom, 31, of New Roads, Louisiana, was hit multiple times in the shootout. He died early Wednesday, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William "Beau" Clark said.

Channing Wells said the couple had been married nearly three years but had been together since both were 19 and going into their sophomore years at Jackson State University.

He took a job at the fast-food restaurant where she worked: "He stayed for one paycheck, just to get my phone number," she said.

After she finished four more years of school in Chicago to become an optometrist, Josie Wells missed a test of his own to drive her to another state for her board examination, she said.

Later, she said, she encouraged her husband to look beyond his original ambition to service as a federal marshal.

"His dream was just to become a local police officer," she said. "I told him, 'Don't settle for that. Why don't you find the highest level of law enforcement you can do?'"

Wells' father, Obie Wells Sr., who turns 57 Thursday, said he, too, had followed a family member into law enforcement. He retired from the sheriff's office in coastal Jackson County as a captain, and all of his sons followed him into the field. He said his surviving sons are a private security officer and police officers. One of his three daughters is studying criminal justice at Jackson State, where Josie Wells earned his bachelor's degree in the same subject.

"She was planning on doing an internship with Josie," he said.

Obie Wells Sr., a self-described cowboy who keeps horses and used to keep cattle on his 100-acre spread in Wade, north of Pascagoula, said his longtime nickname is "Josie" after the Clint Eastwood title character in "The Outlaw Josey Wales." He gave the name to his second son when his wife, Sherry, refused to let him follow George Foreman's example and name all of his sons Obie, he said.

Josie Wells joined the U.S. Marshals Service immediately after getting his degree four years ago, Obie Wells said. Authorities said he was the first deputy marshal killed in the line of duty since 2011.

Croom had a long criminal record and faced first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Lechelle Rita Williams, 42, and her brother Sinica Lee Williams, 38, said Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff Beauregard Torres III.

"It was drug-related - just an ongoing feud because of two sides," Lt. Richard Torres said Wednesday.

Channing Wells said that despite her husband's death, she doesn't regret encouraging him to join the U.S. Marshals Service.

"He wouldn't have been happy just being stuck in one position, not knowing there was more - that he could have a higher potential," she said.

And, she said, "He died doing what he wanted to do and what he loved."

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