CRIME CONFUSION: West Memphis explains how technology led to wrong information in search of shooting spree suspect

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 11:13 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (KAIT) - Crime chaos spread across the Midsouth and parts of Northeast Arkansas as a shooting suspect reigned terror across the city of Memphis.

The search for 19-year-old Eezkiel Kelly on Wednesday, Sept. 7 spanned miles, and police in three states were on alert.

For hours, West Memphis police dedicated themselves to watching the I-55 Bridge.

Just before 7 p.m., the city was informed the suspect may have stopped in the southbound lanes after coming into Arkansas.

“It put everyone on heightened alert,” DeWayne Rose, the city’s Emergency Management Director said. “You have officers traveling at high rates of speed to intercept the suspect. So, there is always some hindering if the information is not correct.”

News of the suspect entering Arkansas turned out to be false. West Memphis received the information through a “game of telephone” because the city can’t communicate with other departments through radio.

“[Misinformation being provided to the city] happen a lot more than people think,” Rose said.

He explained West Memphis is the only Crittenden County city not able to communicate with other agencies, which is why he said miscommunication about what was actually happening on the I-55 bridge was provided to the city, and ultimately, the media.

“The problem is we just have that delay of information because we don’t have that radio-to-radio communication,” Rose said

To make sure it doesn’t happen again, the city is in the process of getting hooked up to the Arkansas Wireless Information Network which will allow any public official to communicate with other officials in Arkansas, Memphis, and Mississippi.

Rose said having the system will mean the “difference between life and death, that is a very realistic statement because time is of the essence when you’re out here on the street.”

The goal is to make sure when incidents across the Mississippi happen, police in Arkansas have the most accurate information to respond and save lives.

“It is crucial for this to be able to talk and make this outcome more successful,” Rose said.

The city of West Memphis said they have had communication issues like this before. Most recently, it happened with the closure of the Hernando Desoto Bridge.

The goal is to have the new systems up next summer. It is expected to cost about $6,000,000.