HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (WREG) — The Arkansas officer killed in the line of duty was identified Friday, and the suspect allegedly involved has been caught in Mississippi.
Officer Travis Wallace, 41, was a five-year veteran of the Helena-West Helena Police Department, Chief James Smith told NewsNation affiliate WREG Friday. He leaves behind two children, his mother, and several sisters and brothers.
“When you go there and speak with his child and tell them that his father is not coming back home, that’s something hard for an adolescent to process,” Smith said.
Smith describes Wallace as a leader and ambitious. He says Wallace woke up each day knowing the dangers of his job but was not one to quit until the job was done.
“Our department has lost a true leader and brother who admired this community. My condolences go out to the Wallace family and all who were involved in efforts to apprehend both suspects,” said Smith in a released statement. “We must understand that no one has won, although we know our community shall stand strong.”
Mayor Kevin Smith also released a statement on Wallace’s death.
“Officer Travis Wallace is one of our own, and one of our best,” said Mayor Kevin Smith. “He died courageously in the commission of his job, protecting and serving our community. This cuts deep for all of us. My heart breaks for the family of Officer Wallace.”
“I pray that all of God’s wrath and judgement crushes down swiftly on the person who did this, and that justice is served,” Mayor Smith continued. “I pray that our community sees this for the day of reckoning it is, and that we begin to confront as a community the tragic consequences of gun violence in our streets and neighborhoods. We are – all of us – responsible at some level for our community. Our leaders and citizens must do what Officer Wallace did, and confront with courage the evil that lurks among us, and threatens our neighbors and ourselves.”
“I know right now that Officer Wallace is smiling down and saying, ‘Hey Chief, we did it’,” said Chief James Smith. “And that makes me happy.”
According to police, officers had been looking for the suspect responsible for a Nov. 1 shooting at 360 Denise Drive in West Helena. The suspect had reportedly come into the victim’s house, hit him in the head and shot him.
On Thursday, authorities spotted the suspect was at the Delta Inn on Highway 49 around 4:30 p.m. Wallace pulled his patrol car behind the suspect’s vehicle and that’s when the suspect reportedly jumped out and began firing shots, Arkansas State Police said.
Wallace was struck but did fire back at the suspect, police said. There have been no reports that the suspect was hit.
The officer died at Helena Regional Medical Center.
Police Chief James Patrick Smith confirmed Friday Latarius Howard, also known as L.T. Truitt, and an accomplice identified as Bruce Hillie, were captured by the Arkansas State Police, U.S. Marshals and other federal agencies in Indianola, Mississippi.
Howard was charged with capital murder and is awaiting extradition.
Hillie was accused of hindering apprehension.