Tennessee Judge Allows Pre-Trial Diversion for West Memphis Officers Charged in Chase

JANUARY 19, 2006 - Posted at 11:29 a.m. CST

MEMPHIS, TN - A judge has allowed three West Memphis police officers to enter pre-trial diversion in the shooting of a passenger in a car they chased into Memphis.

Officers John Gardner, Vance Plumhoff and Troy Galtelli were charged with reckless homicide in the fatal shooting of Kelly Anne Allen in July 2004.  Prosecutors acknowledged the shooting of driver Donald Rickard was justified because he was trying to run over the officers when they fired into the car.

Police gave chase on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River when they tried to stop Rickard for a broken headlight and he sped away.

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge W. Fred Axley said he took into account the officers' work and social histories, behaviour since arrest, general reputation and how the need for deterrence outweighed other factors.

Their records will be wiped clean if there are no infractions in the next two years.

The officers are being paid, but have not been on patrol since the incident in which Rickard and Allen were both killed.

West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert said he will meet with the mayor and city attorney to discuss putting the officers back on patrol.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)