Accused cop killer assigned public defender as violent past starts coming to light

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The man accused of killing a Memphis Police Officer and going on a shooting rampage downtown has been assigned a public defender.

Justin Welch, who has been charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, evading arrest in a car, reckless driving, theft of property and vehicular homicide, appeared only briefly in court on Wednesday.

He showed little emotion in the courtroom.

At times the 21-year-old wiped his eyes and gazed out into the crowd in the courtroom.

According to investigators, Welch stole a car from a Fox Meadows gas station, shot two men outside Westy’s in the Pinch District, shot a Bass Pro Pyramid employee in the store parking lot, led police on a chase and then crashed at 3rd and Beale where Officer Verdell Smith was hit and killed.

WREG’s Shay Arthur questioned his newly assigned public defender Kindle Nance.

She wouldn’t say anything in front of our cameras, but we still learned more about his possibly violent past.

According to court documents, Justin Welch’s ex-girlfriend, who happened to be the mother of his child, filed an order of protection against him back in 2012.

On November 8, 2012, she reported Welch broke her window because she would not unlock the door.

As he stood outside, he reportedly told the neighbors he was going to physically hurt her.

When police arrived she also stated he had sent numerous messages threatening her.

He even reportedly told her he was going to get her “set up,” meaning he would get others to hurt her.

The victim claimed this wasn’t the first domestic incident between the two and that she feared for her safety.

WREG’s Shay Arthur discovered the protection order was later dismissed.

We also discovered Welch was recently charged unlawful possession of a weapon in Illinois.

In February, officers spotted two men walking down the street who appeared to be juveniles.

Having a curfew in the city, the officers asked them to stop.

That’s when Welch reportedly took off running.

As he was fleeing the scene, he removed a gun from his pocket and tossed it to the ground.

The gun was recovered, and Welch was charged with a felony.

For this latest crime Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said if Welch is convicted the government needs to do everything to make sure accused criminals like Welch aren’t out on our streets.

“If he is convicted for these crimes for this past weekend he needs to be taken off the streets of Memphis permanently. So he does not do more damage we need tougher sentencing,” he said.

Welch is due back in court June 22.

The Westy’s victims remain in critical condition at the Regional Medical Center.

The Bass Pro employee is recovering at home.

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