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Sunday, September 6, 2009

'Police Department' Under Investigation

Mid-South police department investigated for shooting, speed traps
WMC-TV by Lori Brown - September 5, 2009

JERICHO, AR (WMC-TV) - A small town story reminiscent of a John Grisham novel is now making national news. A police officer in Jericho, Arkansas, shot the town's fire chief in the middle of a courtroom following an argument over speed traps. At the Regional Medical Center in nearby Memphis, Jericho Fire Chief Don Payne continues to recover from a gunshot wound to his side. His attorney, Randy Fishman, said the shooting followed a shoving match. Payne, he says, was unarmed. "Shoving match ensued he was shoved from behind. Then one of the officers saw fit to Barney Fife-style pull a weapon and fire at him," Fishman said. He also says the city is at fault for its makeshift police department. "In society, when we give a man a pistol, he better be trained. Know how to use it, and when to use it, or we're out in the wild, wild, west." The police officer involved in the shooting has been neither charged nor cleared. The prosecuting attorney is expected to make a decision about whether or not to file charges by the beginning of next week. The ordeal brought to light something Jericho residents say is a major problem. Just about everyone who lives there has a story about a ticket they say was unfair. And the complaints stretch beyond city limits. Dr. Clint Abner says he used to commute through the town until he received two speeding tickets in two weeks, totaling $250. "He told me I was doing 50 in a 45," said Abner. "I told him he was wrong. I was not speeding - I was well aware of my speed." Meanwhile, the police department in the town of less than 200 residents now appears to be taking a break. Jericho's only police cars haven't budged since the allegations of corruption began heating up. "It's our understanding there aren't any police officers working at this time. That's why we've stepped up patrols," said Crittenden County Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Thomas Martin. And rather than being concerned about the lack of police presence in town, Jericho residents are instead breathing a sigh of relief. Action News 5 was unable to find Jericho's police chief Friday. Even Martin says he doesn't know how to reach him.

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