Two West Memphis policemen lost their lives when they encountered two right wing anti-government extremists on Thursday, May 20, 2010:
The bloodiest day for area law enforcement officials began with routine-sounding radio broadcasts that West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert and his wife heard from their car.Here's a complete description of the event as it occurred:
One was from their son, Sgt. Brandon Paudert, reporting that he was providing backup for a traffic stop on Interstate 40.
Moments later, however, came a chilling transmission: "Officer down."
The elder Paudert rushed to the scene to find his 39-year-old son, a seven-year veteran with the West Memphis force, lying dead on the pavement, shot in the head and neck, still gripping his service weapon.
That sequence, confirmed by a law enforcement source, ushered in 90 minutes of horror and chaos Thursday that left two West Memphis police officers dead and the two top officers with the Crittenden County Sheriff's Department wounded.
The two suspects also were killed.
The tragic day began at 11:36 a.m. on Interstate 40 when Evans radioed in that he was pulling over a white minivan with Ohio license plates near mile marker 275. The van pulled off the interstate onto an off-ramp near College Boulevard.You can see a very graphic picture of the crime scene here, but be warned: it is very, very graphic. Other pictures here.
A few minutes later, Paudert, Evans' backup in the Criminal Interdiction Unit, arrived on the scene. Suddenly, one of the two suspects in the van wrestled Evans to the ground. Gunfire rang out toward both officers from a "long rifle" and a handgun, police said.
Somehow, and police aren't sure exactly how, a broadcast went out at 11:50 a.m.: "Officer down."
Chief Paudert, answering his phone on the scene shortly after the shooting, confirmed that his son was dead. Evans was airlifted to Regional Medical Center at Memphis, where he was was pronounced dead.
That sparked a massive manhunt by every law enforcement agency in the area, including Memphis and Shelby County, in case the subjects fled across the river.
At about 1:06 p.m., someone spotted the van in the parking lot of the West Memphis Walmart.
What happened next is still the subject of confusion, one of many things investigators with the Arkansas State Police will have to decipher.
Dozens of shots rang out, both from the two suspects and the officers, but investigators are uncertain exactly who fired.
Busby and Wren were hit, with Busby taking a shot in the shoulder and Wren taking three in the abdomen.
At that point, an unknown wildlife officer with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, part of the manhunt, rammed his pickup into the side of the minivan, disabling it.
"If it hadn't been for him, they'd probably have killed Wren and Busby outright," said Al Boals, a former West Memphis mayor visiting the family at The Med.
More than 30 officers swarmed the van after the shootout. The suspects' bodies were pulled out, then thrown on a grassy median and the parking lot.
So who were the killers? What were their motivations? What drove them to attack policemen and commit murder?
The killers were Jerry R. Kane (45) and his son Joseph T. Kane (16), a pair of extreme anti-government activists who traveled the country giving seminars on "mortgage fraud" and spreading violent extremist views. In a YouTube video which has since been taken down, the elder Kane is quoted as saying about an IRS agent:
You have to kill them all. So what we're after here is not fighting, it's conquering. I don't want to have to kill anybody, but if they keep messing with me, that's what it's going to have to come out. That's what it's going to come down to, is I'm going to have to kill. And if I have to kill one, then I'm not going to be able to stop, I just know it.The Kanes also left behind a website.
Material on the website promoting Kane's foreclosure-advising business displays classic rhetoric experts say is associated with anti-government groups. Topics discussed on the site include microchips inserted into people's bodies, plots involving the H1N1 vaccine and the contention that U.S. dollars don't constitute real money.This story has been covered extensively in the Greater Memphis area of Arkansas and Tennessee. By all accounts the manhunt for the Kanes generated a massive traffic jam when West Memphis police shut down I-40. What has been surprising is how little national coverage it has received. Is someone discouraging the coverage of incidents of right wing domestic terrorism?
"It's a classic Patriot or Sovereign Citizen website,'' said Mark Potok, director of the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.
In that YouTube clip about the "rogue" IRS agent, in which Jerry described his view of the proper use of violence, his son is shown laughing and offering to deal with the agent himself: "If you pay for the bat, I'll take care of the problem." Later, the son describes his view on violence: "They drew first blood. You are self-defending."
Jerry Kane asks of the audience: "Can anybody tell that my son has never been to school? ... He slipped though the cracks."
Potok said a check of the Southern Poverty center's databases found no mention of Kane, but that he clearly was at least influenced by extreme right-wing organizations. "Without question, Jerry Kane was mouthing some of the core ideas of anti-government, Patriot movement," Potok said.