Mid-South officer shoots town's fire chief over traffic ticket

JERICHO, AR (WMC-TV) - A police officer shot his town's fire chief following an argument over traffic tickets this week.

The shooting happened Thursday in Jericho, Arkansas, a town with a population of 184 that's located just a few miles from West Memphis.

Jericho Volunteer Fire Chief Don Payne underwent five hours of surgery and is now recovering at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.

He was shot by an officer inside the town's one-room city hall, which doubles as a courthouse.

"The officer was really upset because the judge was throwing a lot of the tickets out because she was looking at them and knowing they weren't right," said Brenda Payne, the victim's wife.

She says her husband got into a disagreement with the officer over their son's ticket, which the judge dismissed. She also says the officer who confronted her husband yelled at another officer to shoot him.

"He was shot in the back, and the bullet got caught in his hip bone," said Brenda Payne.

People who live in Jericho say the town's six-officer police force is corrupt.

Resident David Parnell says his ticket for not dimming his lights is one of many the local judge dismissed before the shooting Thursday.

"Come to find out you, don't have to dim your lights when a vehicle is parked on the side of the road," he said. "It's not in the book. I talked to a state trooper."

Parnell already paid for a speeding ticket issued to his wife.

"I think she was going 47 in a 45," he said. "She told them she ain't got no job, so they went a little light on her. Just charged her $125."

Brenda Payne hopes the shooting will expose the Jericho Police Department, which locals say preys on, rather than protects residents.

The police officer, whose identity has not been released to Action News 5, has not been arrested.

The sheriff's department says there was evidence of a struggle.

As for the all the tickets, investigators say it appears officers have been illegally writing tickets to pad city coffers.

That investigation is also ongoing.