Speed-trap-happy cops shoot complaining fire-chief in court

Matt sez, "This story has it all: a tiny, flyblown town rising up against their own draconian police force, a gang of cops shooting a fireman in front of a judge, it's utterly unbelievable. I'll never drive through Jericho, Arkansas, that's for sure."
It was just too much, having to return to court twice on the same day to contest yet another traffic ticket, and Fire Chief Don Payne didn't hesitate to tell the judge what he thought of the police and their speed traps.

The response from cops? They shot him. Right there in court...

It was anger over traffic tickets that brought Payne to city hall last week, said his lawyer, Randy Fishman. After Payne failed to get a traffic ticket dismissed on Aug. 27, police gave Payne or his son another ticket that day. Payne, 39, returned to court to vent his anger to Judge Tonya Alexander, Fishman said.

It's unclear exactly what happened next, but Martin said an argument between Payne and the seven police officers who attended the hearing apparently escalated to a scuffle, ending when an officer shot Payne from behind...

Prosecutor Lindsey Fairley said Thursday that he didn't plan to file any felony charges against the officer or Payne. Fairley, reached at his home, said Payne could face a misdemeanor charge stemming from the scuffle, but that would be up to the city's judge. He said he didn't remember the name of the officer who fired the shot.

Fire chief shot by cop in Ark. court over tickets (Thanks, Matt!)

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  1. Has this sort of thing always gone on, or is it that reading BoingBoing and Reddit daily makes me think that there are way more police abusing their power than there really are?

  2. It’s not the shooting itself that makes this story so ghastly. At least to me. It’s the reaction of the other officials. That this might only result in only a misdemeanor, and the convenience of sudden memory gaps, is frighting. It sends a strong message – the cops of Jericho, Arkansas have free range to do whatever they want and that includes shooting you in front of a judge and getting away with it.

  3. Wow, 7 cops for less than 200 residents? That’s crazy. Where I’m from, a town that size wouldn’t even have its own force. In fact, I doubt there’s more than a 10 or 15 cops (sheriffs dept, town, state highway patrol) in the whole county of 4-5000.

  4. “Prosecutor Lindsey Fairley said Thursday that he didn’t plan to file any felony charges against the officer or Payne. Fairley, reached at his home, said Payne could face a misdemeanor charge stemming from the scuffle, but that would be up to the city’s judge. He said he didn’t remember the name of the officer who fired the shot.”

    Look who’s in on it.

  5. “He said he didn’t remember the name of the officer who fired the shot. ”

    Maybe they should all be held without bond until one of them “remembers”. Can you imagine any other profession getting away with this nonsense?

  6. @3 – This is the problem with most small towns in the Mid-West/South. The good ole boy network is pretty strong.

    It would be nice if the state or the Feds decided to investigate. Hopefully, the Fraternal Order of Police will figure out that bad cops like these give the majority of cops (who are good) a bad reputation and get these guys de-certified from public service…

  7. It’s not even the officer that could face a misdemeanor — it’s the fire chief who got shot! I want to believe there’s more to this story, it just can’t be this ridiculous

  8. Would’ve been funnier if they’d blown their cool and deliberately tazed him in court, then gotten *themselves* immediately arrested by the bailiff for assault…

    What a very strange story indeed. The story says the “officer shot Payne from behind”…not “the gun went off as a result of the struggle”. If he pulled his service weapon and aimed and fired at someone with their back turned…even if he was in a physical altercation with other officers…questionable use of deadly force at best.

    Tazer or billy club/nightstick seems like it would’ve been more appropriate to gain control of the situation, if it really was that out of hand by that point. And where was the bailiff when all this stuff erupted….on coffee break?

  9. I suppose how they conduct their business is their business… but don’t you think there should be a fence or wall of some kind to keep unsuspecting outsiders from being cooked and eaten?

  10. Zombie might find it worthwhile to note that while the gaps are frightening, the police force itself has been disbanded.

  11. Takuan@9: “I suppose how they conduct their business is their business… but don’t you think there should be a fence or wall of some kind to keep unsuspecting outsiders from being cooked and eaten?”

    Maybe just build a bypass around the town. Cut off their “food” supply.

  12. “Payne could face a misdemeanor charge stemming from the scuffle”

    Wait, the guy who got shot might face a misdemeanor charge? And the cop… will get nothing at all or what?

    That makes the sudden memory loss (more like Sudden Mass Blindness) even more convenient (and I guess that nobody will be able to determine which gun fired the shot, either…)

  13. I was reading on this a little. The whole town has a lot of problems, not just the cops. It’s like the entire town is bankrupt. The emergency services both fire and police alike are having vehicles repossesed because they can’t pay for them (the heavy ticketing is likely an effort to fund themselves).

    It seems like a sad little place.

  14. Isn’t this the model for American accountability. The powerful and elite are above the law. I’m surprised we’re even talking about this – let’s look forward and not dwell on the past.

  15. @Sleze

    It has far more to do with it being a small town than where the small town is located. There are plenty of northeast small towns (I grew up in one) adjacent to major cities that suffer similar if not worse problems.

  16. Talia, you have faith hat the ticket revenue makes it into the general fund? I’d love to know what kind of cars the police and town administrates drive in their off hours, dollars to doughnuts they’re blinged out Escalades.

  17. No charges for attempted murder!? Unbelievable! Has Arkansas become America’s Afghanistan?

    A lot of these small towns shouldn’t have their own police and fire depts. It is a waste of resources. They’d be beter off pooling them for regional forces and they’d probably get better quality people than these criminals in uniform.

  18. Well it’s obvious isn’t it?! With that many cops around, this small town just has to be the relocation area for mobster snitches.

    That, or it’s Copland.

  19. I used to have to drive through New Rome, OH to get to high school every day. That town had about 30 residents, consisted of only about 2 or 3 blocks on highway 40, and had about a dozen police who brought in millions a year to pay for salaries and cars. It was an extortion racket. the funny thing is, at one point there was a 911 call of a gunshot fired and it took 45 minutes to get a cop to respond.

    A few years ago the town put it to a vote and dissolved the township. Happy ending. I still instinctively hit the brakes and look for cops whenever I drive through.

  20. A judge, cops, lawyers – and presumably court workers, and not one reliable witness?

    Just another typical case of American Blind Justice.

    (apologies to Arlo)

  21. Of course no one will recall which cop shot him. They were willing to shoot him in the middle of a court room and will apparently get away with it, which means either the corruption goes much further than the cops or those cops aren’t afraid to make sure anyone who talks too much has an unfortunate accident.

  22. not only was the guy shot from behind, but another officer’s finger was grazed by the bullet. hey, lets just shoot our guns into a fight!

    and even though the mayor is playing dumb, they did disband the police force completely until “things blow over.”

    also, in the “i read it” department, the town has had a police car and a fire engine repossessed, leading people to wonder where all the money from the tickets went.

  23. Isn’t this in violation of SOME kind of federal law? Can’t the FBI come in and charge the judge, prosecutor, and cop with some kind of crime? How the hell can they get away with this? This makes the entire country look bad.

    To whom do you report a crooked judge, prosecutor, and police force?

  24. Has this sort of thing always gone on, or is it that reading BoingBoing and Reddit daily makes me think that there are way more police abusing their power than there really are?

    Of course it doesn’t happen all the time. Common things don’t get reported. I mean, when is the last time you saw a fatal car accident in the newspaper? Common stuff makes boring news. News organizations always report the rare crazy things.

    I mean, you don’t really think there is a massive angry mob of protesters who are threatening to overthrow the government because of healthcare do you? No, just a few people spouting off talking points and getting on YouTube. Even that teaparty astroturf paled in comparison to anti-Iraq protests.

  25. Sounds like he was mixing it up pretty good with the cops; so good, in fact, that one of them pulled a gun to try to stop him. I would like to have seen that fight. No camera in the courtroom? C’mon…

  26. How come that piddly little town has street view from google and my hometown of 300000 plus doesn’t?

  27. @43:Buddy66:
    “No camera in the courtroom? C’mon…”

    Of course there’s no camera, or it was broken, or the video will be unwatchable, or someone will steal/delete it, etc. It’s too obvious what’s going on there.

  28. But, Antinous, who’s going to gather the evidence?

    Seriously, I don’t know enough about the US law enforcement system. Would the Jericho PD be an independent body, a sub-department of the state police, or what? If they’re independent, who would be empowered to investigate them? The FBI?

  29. Cameras in small courtrooms like this are very rare. Some states allow it but give judges a lot of leeway, others allow it only in appelate courts, others allow the litigants to reject the option if they aren’t interested. May victims will choose not to be televised for understandable reasons. Most of the above, though, is in relation to state and district courts, the appearance of cameras in small town courtrooms is limited.

    @ANONYMOUS: The news is just like the movies; they don’t report the dull stuff – only the omg crazy stuff. So of course you hear about every crooked cop event, esp when there IS video to go along with it. You don’t hear about all the good stuff cops do, and BB in particular seems to have a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” problem with law enforcement in general. No, I’m not a cop.

  30. Good end to summer going here. Then there’s the guy who continued down the street after the parade on his tractor like he had been doing for decades who got tazered 5 times cuz some dumb cop stuck his hand out and it hit the rear tire and tried to claim the tractor driver was trying to run him over. It takes a special type of idiot to try to face down a farm tractor driving down a street. Given the anger in the crowd for having watched it, they displayed quite a bit of constraint and didn’t go rock happy.

  31. Lets see..

    “No camera in the courtroom?” why should there be? it was a traffic offense. Not too long ago cameras were never allowed for any reason.

    Talking of maybe charging the guy who got shot but not the shooter- pretty f’d up I’d say. They wouldn’t hesitate to charge 7 civilians if there was doubt as to who exactly was the shooter, so why not here? Can’t claim self- defense too easily when you shoot someone in the back.

  32. With such a drastically inflated number of cops, I’m very curious to know how many of them are related to each other. That kind of entitlement screams nepotism.
    (I’d ask if they all went to school together but in a town that small? yeah, they did.)

  33. jennybean – How come that piddly little town has street view from google and my hometown of 300000 plus doesn’t?

    that is a seriously good question. The answer is probably mundane, but the possibilities are exciting.

  34. About a century ago in my neck of the woods we HUNG the corrupt sheriff. Wonder if we’ll have to do things like that again?

  35. Didn’t remember the officer’s name? Even in the heat of the moment I find it hard to believe that you could forget your cousin’s name so quickly…

  36. “Do you know, Watson,” said he, “that it is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with reference to my own special subject. You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there.”

    “Good heavens!” I cried. “Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?”

    “They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

  37. Well that settles it.

    I will not be investing any of my billions in Jericho, Arkansas.

    I like the look of route 77, maybe Clarkedale or James Mill instead.

  38. Jeez, Jericho has really gone downhill since the bombs went off. Civil unrest? Best call in Jennings & Rall!

  39. Um, noone saw the cop? No charges? In a court?

    There must be more to this, the corrruption must so bloody ingrained if no-one is willing to ID this bastard.

    I know this has been said above me, but I’m just dumbfounded. Isn’t anyone going to kick up a fuss about this?

    And why t he hell where there SEVEN officers in court, in the first place? This is a small town, and the Fire / Police would know each other well, you’d assume…. there’s gotta be some sort of rivalry… perhaps for funding?

  40. I drove through Jericho just yesterday…

    I’ve had the misfortune of defending myself a small town Arkansas courtroom. The courthouse was a double wide trailer…no kidding.

  41. nope cops have unparralled power now days with a corrupt system that back them up everystep of the way.. i dont distinguish them from hitlers SS army back in the 40’s.Personally i have to sympathy for the 4 cops who got shot ,,, call it poetic justice \(although i do feel sorry for the families) k bleeding hearts comment on my statement………..

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