Memphis Cop Struck, Killed by Shooting Suspect Fleeing the Scene

Memphis Police Department

(ABC) – A Memphis police officer was killed Saturday evening, after he was struck by a car driven by a shooting suspect who was fleeing police.

The officer, identified as Verdell Smith, 46, was an 18-year veteran of the Memphis Police Department, officials said.

The chain of events began just before 10 p.m. Saturday when Memphis officers responded to Westy’s Restaurant and Bar to find two men who had been shot, said Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings. Both victims were hospitalized in critical condition.

Minutes later, officers received another call at Bass Pro Shops across the street. Officers found a man with a gunshot wound; he was hospitalized in non-critical condition, Rallings said.

The man police believed to be responsible for the three shootings fled in a car, which was found soon after, but officers lost sight of him. The suspect was spotted again, but “he fled again from officers,” Rallings said.

A few blocks away from where the suspect had fled, Smith was clearing an intersection of pedestrians. That’s when the suspect struck him, police said.

“The suspect then fled from the vehicle and was taken into custody after a brief foot chase,” Rallings said. “Officer Smith was transported to Regional One in critical condition were he later succumbed to his injuries.”

The suspect, identified as 21-year-old Justine Welch, was arrested on charges including first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and evading arrest.

After the deadly crash, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland wrote in a Facebook post that he was “angry at the absolutely unacceptable level of violence in our city.”

Strickland wrote, “My family joins all of Memphis in mourning the loss of Officer Verdell Smith, who gave his life in service to our city. I call on every Memphian to remember Officer Smith’s family in prayer and reflection today and in the coming days — and to be grateful for the dangerous, important work our men and women of MPD perform every day.”

Shelby County Sheriff's Office
Shelby County Sheriff’s Office

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