LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An 18-year-old man has been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of a decorated Arkansas police officer.
Arkansas State Police said Tyler Calamese shot Newport Police Lt. Patrick Weatherford Monday as he investigated a vehicle break-in in Newport, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. Weatherford died at a hospital that night.
Police said Calamese fled the scene when officers arrived, who then pursued him on foot. Calamese allegedly turned and fired shots during the pursuit, striking Weatherford.
Calamese appeared in Newport district court Wednesday morning. His family maintains that he is innocent. His grandmother, Janet Reynolds, told KATV-TV Tuesday that her grandson turned himself in to police to clear his name.
“Tyler is an easy-going person,” Reynolds told KATV. “He didn’t meddle with people, he didn’t start fights, and for them to say that he did this is just not — that’s not true. That’s not Tyler.”
Calamese’s next court appearance is scheduled for June 20 and he has been assigned two public defenders. Attorney Gina Reynolds declined to comment on the case.
Weatherford, 41, had served with the Newport Police Department for 15 years and was honored last year as the Jackson County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at a Wednesday news conference that he has asked for $10,000 to be allocated to a fund for fallen officers, so Weatherford’s family may get $5,000 in immediate relief.
Weatherford is the second Arkansas police officer to be killed in the line of duty this year.
Last month, Yell County Lt. Kevin Mainhart was fatally shot while making a traffic stop in rural western Arkansas, and a suspect was arrested after an hourslong standoff.