Newport boy in court over slaying of officer
NEWPORT — A Newport district judge found probable cause to charge a 16-year-old boy with capital murder Friday in the June 12 shooting of a Newport police officer and ordered him held without bail.
Prosecutors also charged Derrick Heard of Newport with attempted capital murder over shots fired at a second police officer, as well as breaking or entering, theft and possession of a handgun by a minor.
A second suspect, Tyler Calamese, 18, of Newport, whom authorities originally accused of killing Lt. Patrick Weatherford, now faces charges of breaking or entering, theft and providing a weapon to a minor.
Prosecutors claim Calamese broke into a car, stole a handgun and gave it to Heard, who later used the weapon to shoot Weatherford, 41, a 15-year veteran of the Newport Police Department.
District Judge Barbara Griffin set bail at $5,000 for Calamese after Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce had asked for $50,000 bail.
During his brief hearing Friday, Heard wore a gray and white striped prison uniform and orange sandals. His hands and feet were bound by chains. He kept his head tucked into his chest until Griffin called him to address her.
By comparison, Calamese, who sat near Heard in the small courtroom, was animated, smiling and talking to friends and family members.
“I’m happy. I’m blessed,” Calamese said of not being charged with Weatherford’s slaying as deputies led him out of the courtroom.
Heard’s charges end nearly six weeks of speculation by some residents who questioned why Boyce didn’t charge Calamese quickly with the slaying after his arrest.
The prosecutor had until Aug. 12 to release Calamese without charging him and said the investigation into Weatherford’s slaying was the most intense he has been involved with as a prosecutor.
Weatherford was fatally shot June 12 after he and Sgt. Shane Rogers responded about 6 p.m. to a call regarding a vehicle break-in at Newport High School. The two spotted a person and attempted to stop him, according to an arrest affidavit written by Arkansas State Police investigator Sgt. Scott Pillow and filed Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
The person fled, first on a bicycle and then on foot. Weatherford ran after the person while Rogers gave chase in a patrol car, the affidavit said.
Weatherford apprehended the suspect near Bowen Street and Remmel Road, about five blocks west of the school, and told a dispatcher that he had a weapon, the affidavit said.
Weatherford then was shot, with the bullet striking him in the abdomen, investigators said. A medical examiner reported that the bullet traveled to his heart. Medical personnel transported Weatherford to Unity Health-Harris Medical Center in Newport, where he died.
Authorities scoured the neighborhood on foot and by helicopter, searching for a suspect.
Calamese surrendered to police about 7:30 p.m., about an hour and a half after Weatherford was shot.
His grandmother, Janet Reynolds, said Calamese was at an apartment complex several miles from the high school at the time and had heard on a police scanner that he was considered a suspect. He went to the Police Department with the intent of clearing his name, she said.
Instead, Calamese confessed to slaying Weatherford after being interrogated, state police investigator Wendall Jines testified in Calamese’s probable-cause hearing last month.
When Calamese was asked after Friday’s hearing why he confessed, Gina Reynolds, an attorney with the Public Defender Commission in Little Rock who was appointed to represent him, interrupted and didn’t allow Calamese to answer. She said she would not comment on the confession or details of the case.
Reynolds later said state police investigators coerced the confession out of Calamese because he was “tired and scared.”
“They threatened him,” Reynolds said.
Boyce said Heard became a suspect after officers questioned witnesses early on in the investigation.
“We never ruled him out,” the prosecutor said.
Heard’s attorney, Randall Davis Jr. of Little Rock, said he didn’t intend to ask for bail for Heard to be released.
“We want to obtain all the information on this case that we can,” Davis said.
Evidence includes videos taken from a security camera at the school and from body cameras on the two officers. Boyce said he had to wait for forensic enhancement of the video before filing charges.
Boyce said the state now contends Calamese wasn’t at the school when the break-in occurred.
Boyce alleges Calamese stole a weapon from another vehicle June 11 and gave it to Heard. Less than 36 hours later, that weapon was used to kill Weatherford, deputy prosecuting attorney Steven Howard said.
The two teens were acquaintances when both attended Newport High School.
Boyce said the seriousness of Calamese’s crime should have warranted a higher bail.
“I am extremely disappointed,” he said of Calamese’s $5,000 bail. “I felt, considering the seriousness of this offense, that a higher bond was justified.”