MPD officer killed after being hit by suspect’s car identified

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An officer is dead following an incident in Downtown Memphis Saturday night. According to Interim Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings, the officer has been identified as Verdell Smith, a veteran of the police force who was hired by MPD in 1998. He was stationed at the Old Allen precinct. The 46-year-old is survived by his father, fiance and children. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell released the following statement on the tragic events:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Officer Smith’s family and his comrades at the Memphis Police Department.  We at Shelby County Government appreciate his dedication and service to protect the public. This is a tragedy felt by citizens across Shelby County.” 
The entire incident began when officers reported hearing shots fired just before 10 p.m. in the downtown area.
Justine Welch
Justine Welch
The suspect, identified as 21-year-old Justin Welch, shot two people at Westy’s. WREG spoke with the owner of the business who said Welch started yelling at customers on the patio and then fired shots into the air. He then reportedly pointed the gun at the crowd and opened fire, striking two regulars. WREG’s Elise Preston was told the 57-year-old victim was hit in the neck lie the 39-year-old was hit in the shoulder. Both victims were transported to the hospital in critical condition. As of Sunday morning,  those two individuals remain in critical condition at the Regional Medical Center, reported police. The owner and a manager of the restaurant then took off after the suspect, who ran toward Bass Pro. Police said that is when a 21-year-old employee was shot. That individual was also rushed to the Regional Medical Center but in noncritical condition. Police told WREG that victim has since been released from the hospital. The suspect was seen fleeing the area in a silver 2012 Chevrolet Camaro which had been reported stolen around 7:24 p.m. from the 5300 block of Knight Arnold Road. Officers located the car on Riverside Drive but eventually lost him along I-55. A description of the suspect and the vehicle was broadcasted to officers. At some point, the suspect started heading southbound on B.B King Boulevard, and ran through a metal barricade, striking Officer Smith who was directing pedestrian traffic. Welch then slammed through several other metal barricades, which went airborne hitting two other cars, and kept going. As he reached Hadden, the suspect hit a concrete embankment, causing the car itself to become airborne, and then hit a tree. The car then caught on fire. It was at that point the suspect abandoned the vehicle on GE Patterson and took off on foot. After a short foot chase he was taken into custody, police said. Smith was rushed to the Regional Medical Center where he died. Police said Welch was charged with evading arrest, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree murder, theft of property, vehicular homicide and reckless driving . “Due to the magnitude of these incidents, it will take time to go through all the details,” a spokesperson from the Police Department said. They went on to ask everyone to remain patient as they continue their investigation.

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