After unsuccessfully contesting a traffic citation on August 27, Don Payne returned home to discover he was on the hook for yet another ticket. Fed up, Payne stormed back to the town court to protest. He knew he’d be in for a fight, but he didn’t expect to wind up in the emergency room, shot in the back by a police officer.
Jericho, Arkansas, is a small town, employing seven police officers to patrol the community’s 174 inhabitants. Payne, who serves as the town’s fire chief, is one of many residents who believe the police department’s ticketing is too aggressive. When he arrived at the courtroom, he was greeted by the full complement of seven police officers. According to the Associated Press, a scuffle then broke out, after which one of the officers shot Payne from behind—right in the middle of the courtroom. Payne was taken to the hospital, where he had a bullet removed from his hip bone.
After the A.P. made the courtroom shooting national news, the town hall was temporarily shut down, and Jericho Police Chief Willie Frazier announced he would disband the force for the duration of an investigation by the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department. Jericho town judge Tonya Alexander, who was presiding when the shooting took place, resigned the following day. But local prosecutor Lindsey Fairley said he wouldn’t press charges against the officer who shot Payne. In fact, he told the news service he couldn’t remember the officer’s name.
But at least one person will be called to account in Jericho: Payne will be charged with battery.