June 05–An 18-year veteran of the Memphis Police Department died Saturday night after being struck downtown by the vehicle of a fleeing shooting suspect.
Verdell Smith, 46, died at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, making him the latest casualty in a brutal year that’s seen 95 homicides so far — possibly more if the death of a woman whose body was found in Frayser earlier Saturday evening is ruled a homicide or if any of three other victims in the crime that claimed Smith die.
“This highlights the dangers officers face every day,” MPD Director Michael Rallings said during a press conference outside the Med shortly before 2 a.m.
Rallings said no charges have been filed yet against the suspect who felled Smith, who left a father, fiance and children.
Memphis police spokesman Louis Brownlee sent this tweet shortly before Rallings spoke:
God bless us all! pic.twitter.com/h6J6DzjkTE
— Louis C. Brownlee (@loubrownlee) June 5, 2016
Smith was struck after the unidentified suspect, who was taken into custody and transported to the Regional Medical in noncritical condition, shot three people during a spree that began in the Pinch District at Westy’s Restaurant and Bar and spilled over to Bass Pro Shops before ending near Beale and Third streets.
Rallings said police at Main and Exchange heard shots at 9:55 p.m. and found two male victims at Westy’s. They were transported to Regional and remained in critical condition.
At 10:02 p.m., Rallings said police got a call to the nearby Bass Pro, where a male employee had been shot. He was taken to Regional in noncritical condition.
The suspect, described as a black male, fled in a silver vehicle and was spotted on Riverside Drive before officers lost site near the interstate.
Rallings said police weren’t sure what route the suspect took next, but he ended up at Beale and Third as officers were working to clear the area. That’s where Smith was struck.
The suspect was taken into custody after a foot chase.
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.
Norris and Schorr chased the man down the block, but he crossed Front Street and jumped a fence, heading toward the parking lot of Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.
There, truck driver Luis Cortez of Laredo, Texas, was exiting Bass Pro with his family when he heard gunshots in the parking lot. Cortez said the victim appeared to be a store employee who had been collecting shopping carts.
Cortez said he saw a car near the victim, but couldn’t see inside it because of dark-tinted windows. The car sped away and the victim ran to the store entrance, Cortez said.
Memphis resident Tina Jamison said she was on Beale when the crash occurred, and she approached officers on the street.
“We heard on the scanner, ‘officer down,’ Jamison said.
She said when she heard commotion, she initially thought there had been a fight on Beale.
“They told us to go inside one of the restaurants,” she said.
Staff reporter Jennifer Pignolet contributed to this story.
By Ron Maxey, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
(c)2016 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)
Visit The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) at www.commercialappeal.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.