Video foren­sics slow slain-of­fi­cer in­quiry

New­port po­lice ar­rest sec­ond sus­pect

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - KENNETH HEARD

Au­thor­i­ties are wait­ing for foren­sic en­hance­ments of video taken from sur­veil­lance and po­lice body cam­eras dur­ing the June 12 fa­tal shoot­ing of New­port Po­lice Depart­ment Lt. Pa­trick Weather­ford be­fore fil­ing for­mal charges against any sus­pects, a pros­e­cu­tor said.

Po­lice ar­rested Tyler Calamese, 18, of New­port af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tors said he con­fessed to killing the of­fi­cer af­ter Weather­ford, 41, re­sponded to call of a ve­hi­cle break-in near Rem­mel Park in east New­port. Calamese is be­ing held in the Craig­head County jail in Jones­boro af­ter a New­port district judge found prob­a­ble cause to charge him with cap­i­tal mur­der.

Au­thor­i­ties also con­firmed Fri­day that po­lice have ar­rested a sec­ond per­son — a 16-year-old boy — in con­nec­tion with the shoot­ing. The boy was ini­tially ar­rested for a pro­ba­tion re­vo­ca­tion and held in a ju­ve­nile sec­tion of the Craig­head County jail, Jack­son County Sher­iff David Lu­cas said. He be­came a sus­pect in Weather­ford’s shoot­ing af­ter the ar­rest, Lu­cas said.

Of­fi­cials would not com­ment on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Jack­son County Cir­cuit Judge Harold Er­win sealed in­ves­ti­ga­tory notes and pro­hib­ited those in­volved from com­ment­ing on the case.

Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­ney Henry Boyce said he hopes to file charges against a sus­pect within two weeks. He has un­til Aug. 13 to for­mally charge Calamese, which is the 60-day dead­line to file charges as set by law.

Boyce said Fri­day that he is await­ing en­hance­ments of video taken from New­port po­lice of­fi­cers’ body cam­eras while of­fi­cers re­sponded to the re­ported ve­hi­cle break-in, pur­sued a sus­pect and the sub­se­quent shoot­ing of Weather­ford.

A sur­veil­lance cam­era at New­port High School, where the break-in took place, also recorded some­one tak­ing a purse from a car, and a res­i­dent shot video on a cell­phone of a sus­pect flee­ing af­ter Weather­ford was shot, the pros­e­cu­tor said.

Boyce said Arkansas State Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors have asked the FBI to as­sist in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and have sent the video to its head­quar­ters in Quan­tico, Va., for the en­hance­ments.

Boyce would not com­ment whether the videos show Calamese or the 16-year-old. He said he is wait­ing for the re­sults be­fore de­cid­ing upon charges.

“I have not made a fi­nal de­ci­sion to what ex­tent Calamese is di­rectly in­volved in the events sur­round­ing the homi­cide,” Boyce said.

State po­lice spokesman Liz Chap­man said she could not com­ment on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion since it is on­go­ing.

Fed­eral law pre­vents pros­e­cu­tors from seek­ing the death penalty against youths charged with cap­i­tal mur­der. Un­der the law, youths, even if they are charged as adults, can only re­ceive life sen­tences in prison with the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role af­ter 28 years are served.

Chris Nebben, an at­tor­ney with the Arkansas Pub­lic De­fender Com­mis­sion in Lit­tle Rock who was ap­pointed to rep­re­sent Calamese, de­clined to com­ment about the case and the sec­ond per­son ar­rested.

“The state has 60 days to file charges,” Nebben said. “That’s his dis­cre­tion. We need to wait to see how to han­dle the charges.

“I am ob­li­gated to my client,” he said. “I can­not com­ment fur­ther.”

Calamese sur­ren­dered to po­lice about an hour and a half af­ter Weather­ford was killed about 6:15 p.m. June 12.

A med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s re­port in­di­cated one bul­let struck Weather­ford, a 15-year vet­eran of the New­port Po­lice Depart­ment, in the ab­domen and trav­eled to his heart. Med­i­cal per­son­nel trans­ported him to Unity Health-Har­ris Med­i­cal Cen­ter where he died.

When asked by Jack­son County Deputy Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­ney Steven Howard dur­ing a June 14 prob­a­ble cause hear­ing in New­port District Court if Calamese ad­mit­ted to fir­ing the fa­tal shot, state po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor Wen­dall Jines said, “Yes.”

Although Calamese con­fessed to fa­tally shoot­ing Weather­ford af­ter of­fi­cers in­ter­ro­gated him the evening of June 12, po­lice con­tin­ued to keep roads closed and blocked traf­fic in a neigh­bor­hood where the shoot­ing took place for sev­eral hours. A state po­lice he­li­copter flew over­head, and res­i­dents re­ported see­ing scores of of­fi­cers with drawn weapons search­ing the area.

Calamese’s grand­mother, Janet Reynolds, said Calamese texted her that evening and said he was at an apart­ment at the time of the shoot­ing. She said Calamese went to po­lice to clear his name when he learned he was a sus­pect.

“He’s in­no­cent,” Reynolds said of her grand­son af­ter a brief hear­ing June 20 in Jack­son County Cir­cuit Court. “I’m stand­ing by him.”

Boyce said of­fi­cers have con­ducted an ex­ten­sive case, fill­ing “vol­umes” of file ma­te­rial.

“This in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been as in­tense as any I’ve been in­volved with,” Boyce said.

Er­win will hold a hear­ing for Calamese on Aug. 3 in Jack­son County Cir­cuit Court in New­port.

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