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Mississippi policeman slain, partner wounded by bank robbery suspects

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - Suspected bank robbers shot a policeman dead in Tupelo and wounded a second officer as they made their getaway after a hold up, police in Mississippi said.

The suspects were still at large in the early hours of Tuesday and WTVA television reported that a $100,000 reward was being offered for information that could help solve the case.

It said Monday's shooting could have marked the first death of a police officer in the line of duty in at least 29 years in Tupelo, some 170 miles northeast of Jackson in the southern U.S. state.

Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre confirmed that 38-year-old police Corporal Gale Stauffer died at about 3:45 p.m. after being shot at close range by one of the suspects on a busy downtown street.

Stauffer, who was married with two young children, had joined the force in 2005.

Another officer, 26 years of age but whose name was not given, was listed in critical condition at a local hospital, Aguirre said.

"It's just tragic. It's just so much worse when it's this close to home," Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton told NBC affiliate WTVA.

Details were murky. The two officers were shot as they confronted two or three robbery suspects who had been fleeing from police in a car after holding up a nearby BancorpSouth branch, the chief said.

It was not clear how much money was taken or the type of weapons used in the hold up or in the exchange of gunfire with police.

Numerous people witnessed the shooting, many watching from their vehicles or through the windows of nearby shops and restaurants. Police detectives and FBI agents were interviewing many of them, Aguirre said.

(Reporting by Emily Le Coz and Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Alison Williams)

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