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Officer-involved shooting at downtown restaurant is found to be justified Detective's actions 'prevented injuries or death,' official says

Gun pointed at lawman, police say by Lynn LaRowe | October 22, 2021 at 3:15 a.m.

TEXARKANA -- An officer-involved shooting at a downtown Texarkana restaurant last week has been deemed justified under Arkansas law by the prosecuting attorney serving Miller County.

Jayden Jemar Sledge, 20, suffered a non-life threatening injury to his right arm the evening of Oct. 13 after being shot by Texarkana police Department Detective Wayne Easley in a storage area of Zapata's Grill and Mexican Cantina. Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Black issued a letter Wednesday afternoon to Arkansas State Police Special Agent John Rhone and Texarkana Police Chief Kristi Bennett that includes the opinion that Easley's actions were legally justified.

"The information and facts revealed in the video along with information from the many patrons that were present clearly showed that Detective Easley should be highly commended for taking the fast and professional action that he took which unquestionably prevented injuries or death to the many citizens and patrons that were present in the restaurant," Black's letter stated. "It is abundantly clear to me that the actions of Detective Wayne Easley were completely justifiable on several different grounds of the criminal code."

Easley was celebrating the birthday of a family member inside Hopkin's Icehouse across the street from Zapata's when a civilian informed him that a man was breaking into a car in a nearby parking lot, according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by Arkansas State Police.

Sledge was allegedly observed breaking into a white Yukon in a parking lot south of Hopkin's at around 7:15 p.m. He allegedly pointed a 9 mm handgun and threatened to kill the husband of the Yukon's owner when confronted inside the SUV.

Easley and his son, a Texarkana patrol officer, gave chase as Sledge ran into Zapata's across East Third Street from Hopkins. When approached, Sledge allegedly pulled a firearm and pointed it at Easley -- who was unarmed -- inside Zapata's. When Easley backed away, Sledge allegedly ran to the back storage area of the eatery. Easley borrowed a 9 mm handgun from a Zapata's patron and proceeded to the back of the restaurant.

"Sledge was attempting to climb up a ladder and was approached again," the affidavit states.

Sledge allegedly pointed his gun at Easley a second time, prompting him to shoot Sledge in the arm with the patron's pistol. Sledge allegedly fell from the ladder and was taken into custody by the off-duty officers.

Arkansas State Police assumed the investigation at the request of Texarkana Arkansas Police Department. While conducting a crime scene search of the storage area where Sledge was shot, agents allegedly found a set of keys to a Kia Sorento that had been reported stolen earlier in the day from a parking lot outside Central Mall in Texarkana, Texas.

"On Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, Sledge was fired from Zapata's. Sledge told another employee that he was coming back to shoot the place up," the affidavit states.

Sledge made an initial court appearance Oct. 15 before Miller County District Judge Tommy Potter. Potter set bail at $250,000. Sledge is being held in the Miller County jail.

Sledge has been charged with breaking or entering, three counts of aggravated assault, terroristic threatening and theft by receiving.

Print Headline: Restaurant shooting deemed justifiable


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