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Man convicted of killing 2 people, including Memphis police officer during downtown crime spree

Action News 5 Memphis logo Action News 5 Memphis 8/31/2021 Olivia Gunn
a close up of a piano: Man convicted of killing Memphis police officer in 2016 © Provided by WMC Action News 5 Memphis Man convicted of killing Memphis police officer in 2016

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A man was convicted of killing two people, including a Memphis police officer Tuesday.

Justin Welch, 26, was convicted of the following:

  • One count of first-degree murder
  • One count of vehicular homicide
  • Two counts of attempted first-degree murder
  • Murder
  • Two counts of employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony
  • One count of intentionally evading arrest in an automobile when risk of death or serious injury was high

Welch is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, He will be sentenced for the other crimes September 23.

39-year-old Joshua Walton and Sgt. Verdell Smith died as a result of the June 4 incidents.


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Authorities said Welch arrived n Memphis in a car he stole in Arkansas. According to the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, Welch pulled into a gas station on Knight Arnold where he stole another car and drove downtown.

Witnesses said Welch walked up to a group of people eating outdoors at a restaurant on North Main and began shooting without warning at close range. He shot Walton in the neck and a second customer three times in the face. Walton died of his injuries 13 months later.

Welch then got into the stolen car, drove up to a 21-year-old Bass Pro employee, and began firing shots. The employee was struck in the left forearm as he raised to cover his face. Another bullet struck his cellphone in his pocket.

With police in pursuit, Welch drove at a high rate of speed the wrong way on Third Street. Smith was herding pedestrians to safety when Welch struck him, causing fatal injuries.

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