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[UPDATE] America's Nastiest Speed Trap Town and a Fire Chief's Shooting

Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 7:36 pm
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Jericho police were so into speed traps they ignored other calls
See update at the end of the jump...

Every state has one -- that nasty little town where the police force's sole duty is to pinch all who pass through for speeding. But Jericho, Arkansas took it to a whole new level.

The village has but 174 residents and not a single business. Yet it also has seven police officers who seem to do nothing more than conduct speed traps. Residents are so pissed that they've vandalized squad cars in the past, forcing the department to park them out of town overnight. "You can't even get them to answer a call because normally they're writing tickets," Crittenden County Sheriff's investigator Thomas Martin told the Associated Press. "They're not providing a service to the citizens."

So you can imagine Fire Chief Don Payne was a little pissed when he received his second ticket -- in the same day. He'd failed to get one ticket dismissed on August 27, then returned to court after receiving a second that day. That's when an argument erupted between the chief and the seven cops who attended the hearing...

City officials are clamming up, so details remain sketchy. But it appears a scuffle broke out between Payne and the officers. And this being the Jericho PD, seven officers were somehow unable to subdue one fire chief. So one of the cops shot him. Yes, right there in court.

Payne survived the shooting, but it appears little Jericho won't easily return to its practice of preying on motorists. The police chief has disbanded the force until the furor settles down. But there may be a problem with a whole lot of missing money.

The police department was obviously pulling in a lot of loot with its 24/7 ticketing policy. And sheriff's investigators want to know where that money went. The city has missed payments on fire and police vehicles, and both departments have had vehicles repossessed for stiffing their leases. Yet official Jericho refuses to talk. Until a sheriff's investigation is concluded, we likely won't know what exactly happened in this ugly little town.

UPDATE: The tale of tiny Jericho, Arkansas just keeps getting weirder. Fire Chief Don Payne was charged with battery today after getting shot in court by police last week. Payne apparently got into a shoving match with seven -- count 'em, seven -- officers in the court while protesting a traffic ticket. But the seven cops were somehow unable to subdue a single man, suggesting an investment in gym memberships might be in order. That's when one yet-to-be-identified officer shot Payne in the back.

But West Memphis city attorney Lindsey Fairley says the fire chief's to blame, contending he tried to beat the seven officers up. None of the cops will be charged.

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