Tennessee Police Officer Run Down, Killed by Fleeing Shooting Suspect

June 5, 2016- Memphis Police officers join together and bow their heads for fellow officer Verdell Smith, 46, who was killed in the line of duty when he was struck by a vehicle while working Beale Street detail. (Nikki Boertman/The Commercial Appeal)
Photo Courtesy of Nikki Boertman/The Commercial Appeal

A police officer in Memphis, Tennessee, was run down and killed by a shooting suspect fleeing the scene that left three others wounded. The suspect reportedly fled on foot after striking the officer with his car and was later captured.

Memphis Police Officer Verdell Smith, 46, was pronounced dead from his injuries Saturday night shortly before 11 p.m., according to Mike Rallings, Memphis Police Department’s director, the Associated Press reported Sunday morning.

The suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Justine Welch, The Commercial Appeal’s Ron Maxey reported on Sunday morning. He is now charged with: Evading arrest, to wit vehicle pursuit: attempted first degree murder (three counts); murder first degree, to wit in the act of attempted first degree murder (1 count); theft of property over $10,000; vehicular homicide and reckless driving, the Memphis newspaper reported.


Justine Welch – Photo: Shelby County Sheriff’s Office

The incident began Saturday night at about 10 p.m. when the suspect shot people who were out on North Main, the reporter stated. Those two people were transported to the hospital in critical condition. The suspect then fled to a nearby Bass Pro Pyramid where he allegedly shot a male employee. That employee’s condition is said to be non-critical, WREG CBS3 reported. The Memphis newspaper reported on Sunday that this man has been released from the hospital.

The two men who are still reported to be in critical condition are said to be age 39 and 57.

Police responded to the shooting and were attempting to clear the area when the suspect, attempting to flee, ran down Officer Smith with the vehicle. He then fled on foot, but was captured by police shortly after.

The Commercial Appeal put together a video report of the timeline of the crime spree that led to Officers Smith’s murder and three people being shot.

Officer Smith was described by WANT’s LocalMemphis.com as a 18-year veteran of the department. He was engaged to be married. In addition to his fiancée, Officer Smith is survived by his father and a son and two daughters. The officer was stationed at the Old Allen Station in Memphis.

The shooting originally broke out at Westy’s, a downtown bar. The Inquisitor reported that “Martin Norris and Jake Schorr IV, employees of Westy’s, said a man walked up from the south on Main Street, talking loudly to himself, pulled a handgun and shot two customers who were sitting at a picnic table in front of the restaurant.”

The Inquisitor reported the suspect was displaying psychiatric issues prior to the shooting and may be under psychiatric evaluation at this time.

In a statement reported by WMCActionNews5 NBC in Memphis, Mayor Jim Strickland wrote, “I am angry this morning — angry at the senseless loss of a dedicated public servant, and angry at the absolutely unacceptable level of violence in our city. We must not accept this as our norm. I most certainly will not, and I will continue to act to make our city safer.”

“He’s a man’s man and he was an officer’s officer. He was definitely a great father,” Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams told the local NBC affiliate. “Like I said, he loved his son—always talked about him, always had him with him. I think his son is taking it really, really hard. He had two daughters as well.”

Officer Smith is the 41st law enforcement officer to be killed this year in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He is the 24th officer to be killed violently by a suspect. Nineteen officers have been killed by gunfire while five have been killed by vehicular assault.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.