WMPD seeing a violent summer in the city

WMPD seeing a violent summer in the city

‘ This year has been worse,’ says captain after recent rash of shootings


A series of shootings in West Memphis continued Wednesday evening. Gunplay resulted in two murders and one self defense killing and a wounded grandmother in recent days. Gun deaths in the city year-to-date tallied at nine, outpacing the record 11 murders West Memphis had in 2015. There were seven homicides in 2017.

“While we generally have an up-tick in violence in the summer, this year has been worse,” said West Memphis Police Department Enforcement/ Criminal Investigation Division Commander Joe Baker.

“We are at nine this year and have surpassed the last two years already.”

A shooting at the Meadows Apartments overnight Wednesday was ruled by the prosecutor to be justified self-defense. Captain Baker recapped the events that lead to the shooting death in that case.

“It was a domestic situation,” said Baker. “Two guys got into it over a girl in her apartment. They were in their 30s. When we arrived officers found a man suffering from gunshot wound to the upper chest.

He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at Regional One.”

Baker said the shooting stemmed from an apparent love triangle. According to reports, Travis Bryant shot Lemarcus Bailey dead after being surprised in the bedroom.

“Bailey was the exboyfriend,” said Baker.

“Bailey knocked on the door and a seven year old let him into the apartment. He went in and started beating up Bryant. At that point, the couple didn’t even really know who it was. Bryant had a gun at bedside and shot Bailey.”

The prosecutor reviewed the case Thursday and ruled it a self-defense shooting.

“We are not charging the gunman because it was justified,” said Baker.

Police arrested a suspect in another shooting that happened just before midnight Tuesday at the Steeplechase Apartments. Jason Dove, 23, was pronounced dead after being transported to Regional One. He died of a gunshot wound to the head. Baker reviewed the sequence of events.

“Officers responded to a shots fired call at the apartments,” said Baker. “They immediately began an investigation and soon developed 17-year-old Jaylen Maxwell as a suspect. Investigators gathered statements through the night.

The next morning they obtained an arrest warrant first thing Wednesday morning. Maxwell was arrested and charged with first degree murder.”

WMPD arrested another shooting suspect. Police booked Desmon Mason, age 30, in the June 6 shooting of an 81-year-old grandmother on south 16th. The woman was shot in the arm and reported home recovering. She was not the intended target according to Baker.

“We charged Mason with battery in the first degree, “ said Baker. “The grandson was the intended target that Mason was shooting at.

Mason called the house and asked for the grandson outside, but rather than sending him out, Grandma opened the door to see.

First thing, as soon as Mason saw the door starting to open, he began shooting at the door, assuming that Grandma would be sending the grandson out.”

The city has plans to install additional Sky Cop surveillance cameras around the known trouble spots around the community. Several have already been installed and have proved helpful to investigators.

By John Rech