A 21-year-old Tennessee man was charged Sunday with running over a police officer, killing him, and injuring three others during a weekend rampage in downtown Memphis, authorities said.
Justin Welch, who was being held at the Shelby County Jail, was charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, vehicular homicide and other crimes, the Memphis Police Department said in a statement.
Earlier Sunday, police said that Officer Verdell Smith, 46, died of his injuries after being struck by Welch’s vehicle — a car that NBC affiliate WMC reported was stolen.
Smith, an 18-year veteran, leaves behind a fiancée, a father and two children, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings said.
The rampage began Saturday night, when Welch allegedly shot two men inside Westy’s, a bar in downtown Memphis at 10 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET). He allegedly then ran across the street and shot an employee inside a hunting and fishing store, according to WMC.
Citing witnesses, the station reported that Welch was acting “erratic” and pointing a gun at people inside the bar. The initial victims, who are 39 and 57, were transported to a local hospital in critical condition, WMC reported, while the 21-year-old store worker was briefly hospitalized.
Welch then fled the scene, police said, escaping authorities during a chase. A half hour later and roughly one mile south of Westy’s, he struck Smith, killing him, police said.
After a brief foot chase, Welch was captured.
In a statement early Sunday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he was “angry at the senseless loss of a dedicated public servant, and angry at the absolutely unacceptable level of violence in our city."