Video forensics slow slain-officer inquiry
Newport police arrest second suspect
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.