Prosecutor: Officers involved in fatal shooting will not face prosecution

Bodycam footage of Barnhill Rd. incident provided by JPD

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Ten Jonesboro police officers involved in a deadly shootout with a suspect on June 5 will not face prosecution.

Scott Ellington, prosecuting attorney for the Second Judicial District, released his preliminary findings on the case.

Officers cleared, bodycam video released

In it he stated that Jay Michael Clem had “initiated the confrontation, forcing officers to respond with deadly force.”

Ellington went on to state that Clem “fired his weapon in the direction of the officers” and that the initial return fire, which knocked him off the porch, was justified.

“When the officers approached Clem and commanded him to show them his hands, he disobeyed, instead reaching for and raising his weapon toward the officers once more.” Ellington stated. “Thus causing the officers to once again fire in self-defense, as well as in defense of the officers next to them.”

The prosecutor said the officers “were reasonable in believing that their life as well as the lives of their fellow officers were in danger.”

The Jonesboro Police Department released an edited version of bodycam video from the shootout on Monday, June 10. A uncut, “raw” video was released three days later on Thursday.

According to a media release from Jonesboro Police Department Public Information Specialist Sally Smith, “We have released a narrated version of the body cam footage that pertains to the incident that occurred Wednesday, June 5, 2019. This footage is an abbreviated version of the events that resulted in the officer involved shooting of Jay Michael Clem.”

Smith said, "Due to the volume of body camera footage, the raw will be released later this week once we have gone through the hours of footage to make sure all ACIC information has been redacted. This is to insure the right to privacy for any individual that is being discussed over the radio. Once that process is complete, we will place the footage on a server that can be accessed by the media. "

On Friday, officials also released more details on the case, noting ASP has begun its investigation.

“Approximately 7:35 p.m., Calvin Wheeley notified 911 that his wife, Lottie, had been shot in the lower back and was in transit to St. Bernards Hospital. Police were advised of a suspect, Jay Michael Clem, who was located inside a home in the 3100 block of Barnhill Road. JPD officers tried to make contact with Mr. Clem, but he refused to cooperate and barricaded himself inside the residence with his weapon,” Smith said in a media release.

According to the Jonesboro Police Department’s incident report, Mr. Wheeley stated Clem’s last words to him were, “If you call law enforcement, they will have to kill me to get me out of this house.”

The report said Wheeley stated that he was not at all surprised, or shocked, by the results.

According to the report, Clem was a paranoid schizophrenic, who had previously been in Mid-South and was not taking his medication properly. The family stated there had been “issues” with him lately.

When asked by an officer what caused the incident, Wheeley said that Clem wanted them to purchase him alcohol, but they would not, and he got angry.

Wheeley said they got into an argument and then Clem pulled out a gun, aimed and fired. At first, it malfunctioned and Mrs. Wheeley took off toward the truck. Clem reportedly then tried again and shot his mother in the back. Wheeley helped his wife into the vehicle and drove her to the hospital. He also called 911.

“The negotiators attempted to communicate with Mr. Clem for four hours, but were not successful. The S.W.A.T. team responded at the direction of Chief Rick Elliott. Chemical Munitions was deployed and Mr. Clem exited the home brandishing a hand gun and proceeded to fire multiple shots at officers. Police engaged the suspect with lethal force. The Craighead County Coroner, Toby Emerson, pronounced Mr. Clem deceased at the scene,” police said.

Smith said the officers - Sgt. Shon Morris, Pfc. Nathan Ivy, Pfc. Erik Johnson, Cpl. Paul Williams, Sgt. Lane Holmes, Dfc. Bryan Davis, Ptl. Pete Lochner, DCpl. Brian Arnold, Ptl. Michael Talley and Pfc. Bryan Bailey - responded to the gunfire of Jay Michael Clem.

Each of the officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by Arkansas State Police and a decision by Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, Smith said.

Jonesboro police are also conducting a professional standards investigation into the case, Smith said.

Chief Elliott on 10 Suspensions after OIS

Police Chief Rick Elliott said this is the largest number of officers he’s had to place on leave due to one incident. But what makes it manageable for the police department is the officers are not all on the same shift.

The ten officers are from different divisions and shifts, so it lessens the burden on day to day operations.

Elliott said the force has gotten used to working shorthanded over the last several years, due to open positions and military deployment.

So, he is not expecting this hit to have a major impact.

“If the shift supervisor feels that he or she needs more manpower, then they will call in off-duty officers to come in and fill that shift for overtime,” Elliott said. “Bottom line is we’re still out here doing our job day in and day out.”

JPD also leans on the Craighead County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police when they need more manpower.

Police confirmed the standoff lasted about 4 hours before the suspect died at the scene.
Police confirmed the standoff lasted about 4 hours before the suspect died at the scene. (Source: KAIT)

Smith said no officers were injured in the standoff.

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