Fire chief shot over traffic ticket

By Lori Brown - bio | email

JERICHO, AR (WMC-TV) - The small town of Jericho, Arkansas has less than 200 residents, but the city's police force employs six people. Drivers say those officers abuse their authority, by writing too many traffic tickets. That outrage boiled over last week, when a police officer shot the town's fire chief during a court hearing about a traffic ticket.

The Don Payne is now at the Med recovering from the shooting. The shooting happened after a judge dismissed a month's worth of tickets for being issued outside the city limits.

Meanwhile, the Crittenden County Sheriff's Department is investigating the Jericho Police Department for writing tickets for things that are not crimes and for writing tickets outside their jurisdiction.

People say the shooting is evidence of an incompetent if not corrupt police department.

"They just harass people," Jericho resident Ruby Gladney said.

Kenny Payne says he received a ticket from the Jericho Police Department when he was in Clarkdale, well outside city limits.

"I had to pay $125," Payne said.

A reporter asked Mayor Helen Adams about the shooting and the complaints of excessive tickets. She didn't want to talk until she heard back from investigators.

City Council Member Irene Young says something is not right.

"I think it's wrong, I think it's wrong," Young said.

The Sheriff's Department's spokesperson says it is their belief officers are writing tickets to pad city coffers. Something that's against the law.

Kenny Payne who is a truck driver says it's also cruel. He says it wasn't easy for him to come up with the money.

"It put me in a bind," Payne said.

Meanwhile, Don Payne is still at the Med recovering from the gunshot wound.

Just as the Bible story goes about the good Samaritan being beaten and robbed on the road to Jericho, people on the road to Arkansas' Jericho say they can relate.

The police officer has not been charged. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing. The Crittenden County Sheriff's Department says small town police departments used to receive federal funding, but that funding has since dried up.

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