Memphis police officer, a father of three, killed after three people shot downtown

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee — A Memphis police officer was killed after a pair of shootings in the city’s downtown, authorities said.

Verdell Smith

Verdell Smith

Officer Verdell Smith, 46, was struck by the shooting suspect’s car Saturday night, June 4th Memphis Police Department Director Mike Rallings said.

The string of violence started with back-to-back shootings that left three people injured.

Two men were critically wounded in a shooting at Westy’s restaurant at about 10:00 p.m., Rallings said. Minutes later, an employee at the nearby Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid was also shot but not critically wounded.

A 21-year-old man was charged with murder in the death of a Memphis police officer overnight, according to the Memphis Police Department. Pictured: Justine Welch, 21

Justine Welch, 21

The suspect fled in a car, and police lost him on nearby Interstate 55.

But he later returned to the scene, where officers were working to clear the area. That’s when the suspect struck and killed Smith, an 18-year veteran of the police force.

Officers managed to arrest the suspect, who has not been identified.

“I am angry this morning — angry at the senseless loss of a dedicated public servant, and angry at the absolutely unacceptable level of violence in our city,” Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement. “We must not accept this as our norm. I most certainly will not, and I will continue to act to make our city safer.”

The mayor asked every Memphis resident “to remember Officer Smith’s family in prayer and reflection today and in the coming days — and to be grateful for the dangerous, important work our men and women of MPD perform every day.”

Smith is survived by his father, fiancee and three children, CNN affiliate WMC reported.

Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said Smith was an excellent officer and father.

“He loved his son — always talked about him, always had him with him,” Williams told WMC. “I think his son is taking it really, really hard. He (Smith) had two daughters as well.”