Forty-four-year-old Jerry Kane's life had largely been spent outside the lines proscribed by society. And his contempt for the law was often manifest in violation of it, so it was perhaps predictable that the ex-con found himself on the morning of May 20, 2010, saddled with an outstanding warrant from New Mexico for carrying a large quantity of marijuana and an illegal firearm. As a member of the radical group Sovereign Citizens, Jerry probably saw that warrant as a badge of courage.
Unfortunately, this romantic image of himself extended to his son, Joseph Kane. Having been home schooled, Joseph's devotions to his father extended beyond his affections for the man. He hung onto his father's every word, and believed the man to be correct in his vitriolic appraisals of American society. And like his dad, Joseph was determined to live outside any conventions others might have decreed upon him.
The lives of Joseph Kane and others might have been well served had the young man exhibited some of the rebellious tendencies associated with adolescence. Unfortunately for West Memphis police narcotics interdiction officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans, that was not to be the case.
When Paudert and Evans initiated a stop of the Kanes' Dodge Caravan on Interstate 40, the elder Kane yielded the van without incident. But that quickly changed when the officers parked behind the van and approached on foot.
Perhaps it was the strong possibility that his father might be arrested that led Joseph to arm himself with an AK-47. Maybe it was the knowledge that he, too, would be subject to arrest for the firearms and marijuana the Kanes had in their possession. Whatever the impetus for his actions, they were as sudden and aggressive as they were decisive.
Sixteen-year-old Joseph Kane gunned down the two lawmen with the assault rifle.
Arkansas Game and Fish Warden Mike Neal was working 65 miles from West Memphis when he got word of the officers' murders. The news hit him hard and the fact that their shootings had taken place within his patrol jurisdiction made the news resonate all the stronger. He headed toward the scene.
Neal arrived in West Memphis 90 minutes later. The general consensus of officers communicating over police frequencies was that the two suspects were still in the area. The Game and Fish warden patrolled the area in hopes of spotting the outstanding van. He'd been on the streets for about 15 minutes when an update went out: Possible suspects were spotted in a Walmart parking lot.
Neal happened to be driving in front of that very parking lot and pulled into an entryway. While he waited for other units to arrive, he rolled down the window of his truck to listen for activity. When a West Memphis officer pulled into the parking lot, Neal fell in behind him. As they drove past the store's front doors, Neal heard gunfire.