MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — An off-duty officer was not taking “official police action” when he was killed in a shootout with a neighbor, and there is not enough evidence to charge the neighbor with murder, a police chief said Tuesday.
Police Director Toney Armstrong told reporters that witnesses gave authorities different stories about what happened when the officer, who was on his way to work, “exchanged words” his neighbor, Lorenzo Clark, 36.
It is not clear what the two men were talking about when the conversation escalated or who fired the first shot, Armstrong said.
Officer Terence Olridge, 31, died after the shootout Sunday afternoon. Clark is being held on $100,000 bond on a charge of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
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Olridge was shot multiple times as the encounter turned into an exchange of gunfire on a typically quiet street where children play in the street and ride bicycles in Cordova, a Memphis suburb.
Olridge was not in complete police uniform but he used his service weapon in the shootout, Armstrong said. It’s not clear exactly what Olridge was wearing that might have identified him as an officer.
The shooting is not being treated as a death of an officer in the line of duty “do to the fact that officer Olridge was not on duty at the time nor was he taking an official police action.” While Armstrong said there is not enough evidence to directly charge Clark with the officer’s death, he did say the investigation in ongoing.
Clark told police he had a 9mm Glock handgun in his pants, took the gun out and started firing several shots in the street, according to an affidavit. Clark fired “several shots which resulted in a death,” the affidavit said.
After the shooting, Clark surrendered peacefully, police said.
Olridge is one of four Memphis officers who have been shot to death in just over four years and the second to be fatally shot in less than three months.
“Our department has not thoroughly healed, or completely healed, from the last time we just went through this,” Armstrong said. “It’s draining, it’s emotionally draining.”
Clark appeared before a judge Tuesday on the weapons charge. Clark said he could not afford his bond and Shelby County General Sessions Judge Gerald Skahan said he would appoint a public defender to represent Clark.
Clark was sentenced to just under two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a weapon in a public place in March 2003, Shelby County court records show.
Olridge, who joined the department in September 2014, had a fiancee who is four months pregnant, Armstrong said.
In August, Memphis police officer Sean Bolton was fatally shot in the line of duty. Police have charged 29-year-old Tremaine Wilbourn, who was on probation for an armed bank robbery, with first-degree murder in Bolton’s death.
Officer Tim Warren was killed while responding to a shooting at a downtown Memphis hotel in July 2011. In December 2012, Officer Martoiya Lang was killed while serving a warrant.