Suspect charged in death of Memphis officer during pursuit

Charges Filed

(Reuters) – A man accused of running over and killing a Memphis police officer while fleeing authorities has been charged with first-degree murder, a spokeswoman for the police department said on Sunday.

Officer Verdell Smith, 46, died shortly after being hit by the suspect’s vehicle around 10:20 p.m. on Saturday, according to the Memphis Police Department. He was killed while police responded to reports of three shootings in two locations. The suspect had fled by car.

The suspect, 21-year-old Justin Welch, was apprehended soon after the incident. On Sunday, police said he had been charged with multiple crimes including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and evading arrest.

Jail records did not indicate whether he had an attorney.

The victims of the shootings had been hospitalized, with two remaining in critical condition Sunday night. The third was treated and released, Memphis police said.

“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,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement posted on social media. “We must not accept this as our norm.”

Smith worked for Memphis police for 18 years, the department said.