Crime Category: Homicide
Around 11:36 a.m. CDT, West Memphis police officer Bill Evans initiated a traffic stop on a white Plymouth Voyager minivan that was travelling on Interstate 40 eastbound toward Airport Road. According to a spokesperson for the Arkansas State Police, Officer Evans was “running drug interdiction“, and the vehicle had license plates from Ohio. Sergeant Brandon Paudert provided backup for Evans. Upon Paudert’s arrival at the scene, Evans attempted to frisk Jerry Kane.
Suddenly, Kane turned and attacked Evans in a scuffle down an embankment into a ditch. At that moment, Joe Kane emerged from the passenger door of the van and opened fire with an AK-47 variant. Paudert ran to the rear of Evans’ police cruiser and returned fire with three shots from his .40-caliber handgun through the windows and taillight of Evans’ cruiser, in an attempt to hit Kane firing from the other side. He then took cover behind the hood of his cruiser which was parked directly behind Evans’ cruiser. Paudert fired four more times at Kane, but missed. Kane then fired multiple shots from his AK-47 variant through the hood of the car, striking Paudert in the head with a ricochet.[nb 1]
Both officers were fatally wounded; Paudert, 39, died at the scene, and Evans, 38, died at the hospital. The suspects returned to their van and sped away. A FedEx driver from Houston witnessed the shooting and called 911; neither officer could make an “officer down” call.
Approximately 2 hours after the incident, Crittenden County Sheriff Dick Busby and Chief Enforcement Officer W. A. Wren stopped a minivan believed to be the suspects’ at a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Officers Busby and Wren were wounded in gunfire exchanged with the suspects and hospitalized in critical condition.
Wildlife Officer Michael K. Neal, responding to the brief standoff, rammed the suspect’s vehicle, preventing their escape and saving the lives of Busby and Wren. Officer Neal exchanged fire with the Kanes through his windshield using his patrol rifle. Dozens of officers then surrounded the van, and the Kanes were shot to death. For his heroics, Officer Neal was awarded Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the NRA.