According to CBS affiliate WREG in Memphis, police say Officer Bill Evans stopped a white van with Ohio plates along I-40 and called for his backup, Sgt. Brandon Paudert. Within minutes, reports indicate Evans had been wrestled to the ground by one of the suspects and gunfire from a "long gun" and a handgun targeted both policemen.
At 11:50 a.m. CDT a call rang out, "Officer down." Paudert was pronounced dead at the scene. Evans died at a nearby hospital.
A massive hunt ended in a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot with another shootout. It hasn't been determined who fired first, but the gunfire left two more law enforcement officers injured and resulted in the deaths of two suspects. They have been identified by friends and relatives as 45-year-old Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son Joseph Kane. They were from Springfield, Ohio, near Cincinnati, but according to family had recently relocated to Florida to live with Kane's new wife Donna Lee.
Initial reports suggested the van carried drug dealers because I-40 is a well-traveled corridor for drug runners. That was followed by reports the van was registered to a church in New Vienna, Ohio, a place called House of God's Prayer, which was once home to a white supremacy movement.
While ties to the church are still being investigated, CBS affiliate WREG has found links to something a bit less familiar, that this man and his son may have had ties to a fringe sovereignty movement. Jerry Kane and his son apparently traveled the country giving seminars with Jerry in a revivalist preacher-style white suit, offering to help people who were having trouble paying their mortgage.
But law enforcement investigators say the pitch offered by Kane and his colleagues was likely a scam,one that ended up costing frightened homeowners more than just their houses. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Kane specialized in "Redemption," a sovereign citizen "theory" that applied special formulas promising to resolve financial problems for people.
One of Kane's colleagues, Karen Taggert, has been accused in several states of pretending to do mortgage rescues while in reality doing nothing more than telling homeowners she will take care of their foreclosure and then proceeding to print a false deed which is filed under the name of a made up company or corporation.
She would then, investigators say, rent the home back to the owners or sell it to them at a reduced price. Needless to say when the bank or mortgage company catches up to the scam, Taggert and her team are, law enforcement says, long gone.
Members of these sovereignty factions encompass people from all races and all walks of life. What they have in common is a firm belief that government has no hold on them. As their own entities, members determine their own value in society. Some even file legal papers declaring their value to be millions of dollars. Since they don't believe in the government, who is there to challenge them?
The mortgage help believed to be offered by Jerry Kane and his group appears to be based on a belief that because mortgages these days are bundled and banks likely no longer have possession of your individual mortgage, they don't legally own your home any more than you do and therefore have no claim to your mortgage payments. Officials say this type of mortgage relief advice is part of a huge scam with tentacles in every state, with hundreds of operators preying on frightened homeowners.
The still unanswered question in West Memphis is, how did a man who seems to have been involved in shady business practices make the leap to killing police officers along a stretch of Arkansas interstate?
Law enforcement working the case still refuses to talk about what evidence they have turned up but officials who understand the fringe sovereignty movement say that sometimes antipathy toward government and law enforcement can lead to violence.
Whatever the cause, two police officers, Bill Evans and Brandon Paudert, are dead.