Police charge 16-year-old in officer killing
A 16-year-old boy has admitted to fatally shooting a Newport police officer and firing at another police officer June 12 and now faces a capital-murder charge, a prosecutor said.
Derrick Heard of Newport told police that he fired the gunshot that killed Lt. Patrick Weatherford and fired at Sgt. Shane Rogers during a pursuit near Newport High School, according to an arrest affidavit filed Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Police had arrested Tyler Calamese, 18, of Newport on June 13, and Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce said he first considered filing capital-murder charges against him after investigators said Calamese confessed to killing the officer. Calamese now faces charges of breaking or entering, theft and providing a weapon to a minor.
“From the beginning, Heard was a suspect,” Boyce said. “We never ruled him out. We developed leads after questioning witnesses.”
Weatherford, 41, a 15-year veteran of the Newport Police Department, was killed after responding to a call of a vehicle break-in at Newport High School. Weatherford and Rogers attempted to stop Heard, the arrest affidavit written by state police investigator Sgt. Scott Pillow said, and Heard fled on a bicycle.
Weatherford ran after Heard while Rogers chased him in a patrol car, according to the affidavit.
Weatherford apprehended Heard near Bowen Street and Remmel Road, several blocks west of the school, and Heard fired a handgun at the officer, the affidavit said. Heard also fired shots at Rogers, according to the affidavit.
Rogers returned fire but did not hit Heard, Boyce said.
Weatherford was shot in the abdomen and the bullet traveled to his heart, a medical examiner reported. Medical personnel transported Weatherford to Unity Health-Harris Medical Center in Newport where he died, leaving behind his wife, Kristen Weatherford, a 21-year-old daughter and a 7-year-0ld son.
Police said Calamese surrendered to police about an hour and a half after Weatherford was shot about 6 p.m. June 12. Authorities continued searching a neighborhood near Remmel Park and blocked traffic for several hours. A state police helicopter flew overhead, searching a wooded area of the park near the school.
Boyce originally held Calamese on accusations of capital murder. Boyce had until Aug. 13 to file formal charges against him.
Janet Reynolds, Calamese’s grandmother, has proclaimed Calamese’s innocence since he was arrested. She said her grandson texted her shortly after the shooting, telling her that he was at an apartment at least 5 miles away from Remmel Park.
She said Calamese went to police to clear his name after he learned that he was considered a suspect.
Boyce said he waited while investigators built their case against Heard before filing the charges. Heard also is charged with attempted capital murder over the shots fired at Rogers, breaking or entering, theft and possession of a handgun by a minor, according to reports.
Boyce said he also had to wait for forensic enhancements of video taken from surveillance cameras at the school and from police body cameras on Weatherford and Rogers before he could file charges.
He would not comment on what the videos show but said “the evidence is not inconsistent with the charges we filed” on Wednesday.
Chris Nebben, an attorney with the Arkansas Public Defender Commission in Little Rock who was appointed to represent Calamese, said last week that he could not comment on the case.
“I am obligated to my client,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on July 20. “I cannot comment further.”
Heard and Calamese are to be arraigned in Jackson County Circuit Court on Aug. 3.
“I am absolutely confident we have the right person charged with the murder of Patrick Weatherford,” Boyce said of Heard.