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Hero Down: Helena-West Helena Police Officer Travis Wallace Murdered By Shooting Suspect

Helena-West Helena, AR – Helena-West Helena Police Department (HWHPD) Officer Travis Wallace was murdered in the line of duty while trying to apprehend a shooting suspect on Thursday night.

The incident began at approximately 6 p.m. on Nov. 12 after officers received a tip that a suspect wanted in connection with an earlier shooting was located at the Delta Inn Motel, CNN reported.

The Arkansas State Police (ASP) said that when police arrived in the area, they spotted the alleged gunman, 29-year-old Latarius Howard, attempting to leave the motel in a maroon SUV, KAIT reported.

Officer Wallace, 41, used his patrol car to block the parking lot exit, at which point Howard allegedly got out of the SUV and walked towards him, firing a gun, according to the ASP.

The shooter jumped into the passenger side of the suspect vehicle as Officer Wallace returned fire, KAIT reported.

The gunman and his getaway driver then fled the scene.

Officer Wallace was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 7 p.m., KAIT reported.

A second officer at the scene was uninjured in the attack, and was able to identify Howard as the killer, according to WMC.

Howard is also the suspect in the Nov. 1 shooting of 45-year-old Charles Selvy at his home in the 300-block of Denise Drive in West Helena.

Selvy told police he was sitting on his couch listening to music when an unidentified suspect entered the house, hit him in the head, and shot him, according to WMC.

Police later learned that Howard may have been involved in the incident.

Officers were trying to apprehend him when he opened fire on them, WMC reported.

Howard, also known as L.T. Truitt, was arrested in Shaw, Mississippi just after 6 a.m. on Friday, the Hot Springs Village Voice reported.

He surrendered without resistance, according to police.

Howard’s alleged getaway driver, 24-year-old Bruce Hillie, was arrested in Indianola, Mississippi shortly thereafter.

Their arrests were a joint effort among the ASP, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other federal law enforcement agencies, according to WREG.

Howard faces a charge of capital murder, and Hillie has been charged with hindering apprehension, the Hot Springs Village Voice reported.

Both suspects are expected to be extradited back to Arkansas.

According to Helena-West Helena Police Chief James Patrick Smith, Officer Wallace served the department for five years, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“He was a very ambitious, very professional officer who was very eager to help save his community,” Chief Smith said. “He was a leader for our department and he’s going to be truly missed by all of his colleagues and all of the [residents] in this community.”

Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin denounced Officer Wallace’s senseless murder in a statement to the Hot Springs Village Voice on Friday.

“We face a new day with the knowledge that another Arkansas officer was senselessly taken from us in the line of duty. It is intolerable,” Griffin said. “This officer was seeking justice for a shooting victim when he was shot and killed. I am heartbroken for the family of the officer, the community, and the Helena-West Helena Police Department who lost one of their own.”

Officer Wallace leaves behind his mother and two children, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“Our officers and their families should not have to fear this type of loss, yet it is one that is increasingly more real to the law enforcement community,” Griffin told the Hot Springs Village Voice. “I am praying for those grieving and for the killer to be brought to swift justice.”

Helena-West Helena Mayor Kevin Smith said in a statement that Officer Wallace was “one of our own, and one of our best.”

Smith said his heart breaks for Officer Wallace’s family, and he praised law enforcement officers for working tirelessly to apprehend those allegedly responsible for his murder.

“I pray that all of God’s wrath and judgment crushes down swiftly on the person who did this, and that justice is served,” Smith wrote. “Our leaders and citizens alike must do what Officer Wallace did, and confront with courage the evil that lurks among us, and threatens our neighbors and ourselves.”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson ordered that all flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Officer Wallace.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Helena-West Helena Police Department Officer Travis Wallace, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Officer Travis Wallace, your life mattered.

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Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Avatar Written by Holly Matkin

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