Support Growing for 3 West Memphis Police Officers - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

West Memphis, AR -- Melissa Simas reports

Support Growing for 3 West Memphis Police Officers

September 30, 2004 -- Posted 4:45 p.m. CDT

West Memphis, AR -- 3 West Memphis police officers are working under non-enforcement status after being indicted earlier this month in Memphis for a reckless homicide. Now the West Memphis Police Department is asking for your help in building a legal defense fund for them.

"Unless something comes out, we're standing behind our officers," said Assistant Police Chief Mike Allen.

A lot of financial support has been pouring into the West Memphis Police Department for officers Troy Galtelli, John Gardner, and Sergeant Vance Plumhoff. All are charged with reckless homicide for a high pursuit chase that ended in 2 deaths back in July. Their legal fees range up to $20,000 dollars per officer. They've raised about a third of the cost, most of it coming from within the department.

"We're like the general public, we live paycheck to paycheck," said Allen.

The high speed pursuit began in West Memphis when officers noticed the vehicle had a broken tail light and the windshield was caved in. It ended behind St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis. The medical examiner can not determine if the passenger died from the car collision or a gunshot wound from a stray bullet.

"During the course of the pursuit to Memphis, the vehicle swerved several times at our officers in an aggravated assault manner," said Allen.

Earlier this month, a Shelby County Grand Jury indicted the 3 officers. They were later released on bond.

"They were booked and treated just like a common everyday criminal," said Allen.

The Memphis District Attorney General ruled that the shooting of the driver was justified, but not the death of the passenger.

"If this had occurred in Arkansas, it would have been the driver of that car that recklessly caused the death of that passenger and not the officers," said Allen.

This story is not only grabbing the attention of folks in Crittenden County. Since the beginning of the month, the West Memphis Police Department has received checks from law enforcement in Los Angeles to an elderly man from Sherwood Arkansas.

"It spoke highly of what law enforcement means to him," said Allen.

While Memphis police follow a non-pursuit policy, West Memphis police say they won't change a thing. They say they must continue to keep Memphis crime from getting over the Mississippi River.

Donations for the 3 officers can be made out to the West Memphis Legal Defense Fund, and sent to the police department or First Community Bank in West Memphis.

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