Wildlife officer’s quick action saved lives in West Memphis
Posted: Friday, July 9, 2010 9:36 pm
By: John Brannon, Staff Reporter
By JOHN BRANNON
An Arkansas wildlife officer is being lauded for his quick thinking that may have averted a blood bath gun battle May 20 at the Walmart in West Memphis, Ark.
Michael Neal of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission used his 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck to ram a white van that had become the focus of a manhunt after two West Memphis police officers were gunned down by two Ohio men about an hour and a half earlier during a traffic stop on I-40.
Neal, whose duty assignment is Lee County, about 40 miles south of West Memphis, had joined West Tennessee and eastern Arkansas authorities in searching for the suspects’ van.
It was later learned the occupants of the van were Jerry Kane, 45, and his son, Joe, 16.
Capt. Donald Oakes of the West Memphis Police Department said after the murder of the two police officers — Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans — the suspects and the van became the object of an intense manhunt.
Neal, an Arkansas wildlife officer, is assigned to Lee County, Ark., adjacent to Crittenden County where the incidents occurred.
“He, along with every other policeman in eastern Arkansas and West Tennessee, all headed for Crittenden County,” Oakes said. “He got into town, was riding around looking for them, when the Kanes were spotted by Chief Deputy Tommy Trimble at Walmart.
“Trimble called it in. West Memphis Chief of Enforcement W.A. Wren and Crittenden County Sheriff Dick Busby turn into Walmart and go block the van in.”
The West Memphis Wal-mart is about a mile and a half away from the site on I-40 where the Kanes assassinated the two officers.
“It was so close to the scene (of the killings). This was an hour and a half later,” Oakes said. “You’d think they would have been trying to get away. These people weren’t trying to get away. They were just trying to pick their spot for a fight. They were maybe a mile and half straight down the service road from the killing.”
When Busby and Wren pulled across a lane to block the white van, the Kanes came out and opened fire on the two officers. Then they got back into the van. Another patrol car came and opened fire on the van, into their windshield. The Kanes began backing up to get to the Walmart store, “probably to get inside the store. They had been inside earlier.”
“When Neal saw that, they went to turn and saw him coming,” Oakes said. “He rammed the van.”
And that action resulted in the Kane fusillade of fire being directed at Neal and his truck. Neal took shelter behind a vehicle and returned fire.
“He saved a lot of lives,” Oakes said. “I can guarantee you, he along with Capt. (Bryan) Ridge, who was in the car that pulled in between the sheriff who was already shot and Chief Wren, who was shot, the Kanes pulled between them and started shooting. In order to stop the (volleys of fire) the Kanes were putting on the officers, Neal rammed the van and blocked it from backing up.
“If the Kanes had backed up, they would have gone into Walmart and we would have had a fight in Walmart. It would have been horrible. As it is, we know for sure Neal’s quick action allowed us to get medical attention to the sheriff, who had lost a lot of blood.”
Sheriff Busby was shot five times in the stomach. Chief Wren was shot twice in a shoulder. Both survived. “Neal did all he could do. He knew he had that large winch bumper. He knew he had the equipment to do it. He knew he could do it. And of course, as soon as he rams them, it’s return fire back through a window
Published in The Messenger 7.9.10