MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - City of Memphis officials spoke for the first time on Tuesday, August 28 about Sunday's double fatal crash involving a Memphis Police car.
Even as officials spoke, family and friends struggled to cope with what happened.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said he wanted to purchase new equipment that can track officers at all times, recording locations, vehicle speeds and other pertinent data.
But, the only thing on the minds of family and friends of those killed in the Sunday accident was what happened and what was being done about it.
“At this point,” said Memphis Police Director, Toney Armstrong, “it appears speed might have been a contributing factor to this accident.”
Armstrong revealed that Officer Alex Beard was rushing to assist a fellow officer.
“We also tell them that when doing so,” said Armstrong, “they are still mandated to operate those vehicles in a safe manner.”
But this time a collision killed two civilians. As of Tuesday, a third victim remained in critical condition at The MED.
13-year-old Senatobia Jr. High student Mackala Ross was one of those killed, and it was hard to grasp.
“The initial shock yesterday morning, Monday morning,” said Principal Andy Schoggin, “was pretty raw.”
By all accounts, Mackala was a great student.
“She was very well liked and very well involved,” Schoggin added. Indeed, she was a member of the band and the basketball team.
“Sweet girl, loved by all.” said Verina Holts. Holts is Mackala’s aunt and the sister of Michael Ross, who was critically injured. According to Holts, Michael was still heavily sedated at The MED.
“As with any parent,” Holts told abc24.com, “he is going to be devastated when he is capable of getting the news.”
The Tennessee Highway Patrol has been called in to investigate.
“There have been an unacceptable number of incidents involving city vehicles,” said Mayor Wharton, “particularly police vehicles.”
Witnesses said Officer Beard was not running his siren or lights. But in an emergency, like trying to help a fellow officer, Armstrong stated they should be on.
Wharton promised a quick end to the investigation, but that’s of little comfort to friends and family.
“What we try do is make sure that we can go through the stages or mourning together,” said Schoggins.
Holts added, “In this instance Memphis P-D definitely dropped the ball.”
Holts is in a unique position as the wife of Senatobia’s police chief. She said she respects all law enforcement, but made her feelings clear in this case.
Officer Beard has been suspended with pay and is also still recovering from the accident.