Published June 30, 2010
JONESBORO, Ark. – Video taken from a police SUV dashboard camera shows an Ohio teenager on a cross-country trip with his father waited inside their van nearly 10 minutes before stepping out and firing an AK-47 at two police officers who had stopped his dad for an apparent traffic violation.
Prosecutors released video Wednesday as part of a preliminary report clearing police of wrongdoing in the fatal shootings of Jerry Kane, 45, and his son Joseph, 16.
The video, shot May 20, showed West Memphis police Officer Bill Evans making what appears to be standard traffic stop, with Jerry Kane exiting Interstate 40 and stopping along an exit ramp. That segment of the video had no audio but shows Jerry Kane stepping out of his minivan at Evans' request.
About 10 minutes later, after Officer Brandon Paudert arrived in a second vehicle, Joseph stepped out of the passenger side of the van firing an AK-47. Just before the shooting, Paudert appeared startled as Jerry Kane moved suddenly out of the frame, as though to run away.
For about 40 seconds, everyone was out of the camera's view — then Joseph Kane climbed back into the van's passenger side and his father walks quickly around the front of the vehicle and into the driver's seat.
After climbing back in the van, Joseph Kane continued to fire shots until his father drove away.
Evans and Paudert, the West Memphis police chief's son, were left dead along the exit ramp.
Jerry Kane, of Forest, Ohio, had recently been jailed after a traffic-related arrest in New Mexico. He also complained on an Internet talk show that he had been stopped at a "Nazi checkpoint" and that the arresting officer should have to pay him for using his name.
An Ohio sheriff had once warned local law officers that Kane, an advocate of anti-government causes, could be dangerous if confronted.
After the shootings, the Kanes became the subject of an intensive search and were found at a Walmart parking lot, where security video captured their movements. The younger Kane went inside the store for several minutes and shopped. After Joseph Kane returned to the van, the Kanes drove away but returned a short time later, only to be confronted by a sheriff's vehicle which cut off the van, prompting the Kanes to start shooting, wounding the officers who got out and sought cover behind their cruiser.
A wildlife officer in a truck then rammed the Kanes' vehicle hard on the driver side.
Numerous officers converged as puffs of smoke arose from the van where the Kanes were still shooting. Glass flew as bullets struck vehicle windows, but no other officers or shoppers were wounded.
Officers surrounded the vehicle with guns drawn and slowly approached. They pulled out the Kanes bodies, ending the episode about 90 minutes after Paudert and Evans were killed.
"The officers who disabled the suspects' vehicle and returned fire were not only justified but acting in self-defense," said Mike Walden, the prosecutor for the judicial district that includes Crittenden County, where the shooting occurred.
He said the Kanes would have faced capital murder charges had they not been killed.
"It has not been a difficult call for this office (to say) this was a justified shooting," Walden said.
According to the preliminary report, police found a Yugoslavian-made AK-47 and a Taurus revolver in the van, along with a dozen other firearms. Police also found burnt marijuana cigarettes behind the passenger seat.
Crittenden County sheriff's Chief of Operations W.A. Wren suffered critical injuries after he was shot in the gunfight at Walmart, but is scheduled to be released from the hospital Friday, Chief Deputy Tommy Trammel said.
"He told us they got four bullets out of him, fired from an AK-47," Trammel said. "The odds are against you on them."
Sheriff Dick Busby was wounded less seriously, taking a bullet in one of his arms. He has fully recovered, Trammel said. Both Busby and Wren had earlier announced their intention to retire at the end of the year.
The scene at the Walmart parking lot was gory, with the Kanes' bodies lying out for hours as FBI evidence technicians processed evidence amid broken glass and leaked antifreeze. The white cruiser used by Busby and Wren was in the middle of the scene, blood on its trunk lid and rear bumper.