Wednesday, 11 January 2017 16:47

Man Indicted in Officer's Death, Wounding of Civilians

Justin Welch Justin Welch
MEMPHIS – A 21-year-old man charged with running down a Memphis police officer after wounding three civilians last summer Downtown has been indicted on first-degree murder and numerous other criminal charges, Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich said Wednesday.
    Justin Welch was indicted on 14 felony counts in all, including the murder of Memphis Police Officer Verdell Smith, 46, and the shootings of two restaurant customers and an employee of Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.
    The incident occurred around 9:45 p.m. on June 4 last year when witnesses said the defendant was walking near a restaurant in the 300 block of North Main and walked up to a 39-year-old customer and shot him several times from close range.
    Witnesses said the defendant then walked up to a 57-year-old Cordova man and also shot him several times at close range. Both men were hospitalized in critical condition.
    The suspect then ran to the Bass Pro store, got into a stolen car and fired several times as he drove away, wounding a 21-year-old store employee in the parking lot.
    With police in pursuit, Welch drove at a high rate of speed south – the wrong way – down Third Street and struck Officer Smith near Beale where he was trying to herd pedestrians to safety. Welch was taken into custody after his vehicle crashed nearby.
    Welch was indicted on charges of first-degree murder; three counts of murder in the perpetration of attempted first-degree murder; three counts of attempted first-degree murder; reckless vehicular homicide; intentionally evading arrest in a motor vehicle while creating the risk of death or injury; theft over $10,000 and theft over $1,000, (both involving stolen vehicles), and three counts of employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony.
    The case is being handled by Asst. Dist. Atty. Greg Gilbert.