LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On December 16, 2021, Arkansas State Police Trooper Spencer Morris was looking forward to the end of his shift. It was his father’s birthday, and his family had plans to get together to celebrate that evening.
But those plans took a dramatic turn and nearly cost him his life.
It was a rainy and gloomy day. Morris was busy responding to several accidents up and down sections of Interstate 55. What he did not know is that U.S. Marshals with the Eastern District of Arkansas were on a stake-out at a nearby apartment complex.
They had been informed by authorities out of South Carolina that a suspect wanted on multiple outstanding violent-crime felony warrants may be hiding inside the apartment.
Morris also did not know that the suspect was a gang member who was considered violent, armed and dangerous. U.S. Marshals eventually confirmed the suspect was in fact the man they were looking for and proceeded to move in, but the suspect took off in a car.
The chase was on.
At the time Morris was unaware of the stake-out, but dispatch lit up his radio and quickly alerted him of the pursuit. Within minutes he joined in and fell behind an unmarked police car that was being driven by U.S. Marshals.
The suspect eventually got on I-55 approaching the Arkansas-Tennessee line. At that time, the only information Morris had was that the suspect was wanted on felony warrants out of South Carolina. Because Morris was the only law enforcement officer in a marked car, he was given permission to take the lead. He was also given permission to continue the pursuit across state lines.
The suspect continued to race down I-55 toward Jackson, Mississippi. Morris was trying to catch up, but as he came up on McLemore Ave, he realized he had just passed the suspect’s car, so he slowed down and forced the suspect to take the exit.
As the suspect drove by Morris, three shots were fired directly into his patrol cruiser, with one of the bullets hitting him in the chest.
Morris immediately told dispatch he had been shot. The suspect vehicle then pulled in front of Morris’ cruiser, and the driver leaned out of the window and fired several more shots before taking off down the road.
Unsure of how serious his injuries might be, Morris went after the suspect. According to police reports, he grabbed his rifle, laid it on the dashboard and, when it was safe, fired at least 10 shots through his windshield.
The trooper’s shots were deadly. As the suspect’s car turned onto an entry ramp, it slowly came to a stop.
Morris then got out of his car and took cover while radioing dispatch of his location and that he believed his bulletproof vest had stopped the bullet.
Backup soon arrived and took over the scene. Morris was taken to the hospital and as he removed his uniform, the bullet that struck him fell out of his bulletproof vest.
On August 15, 2022, the Office of the District Attorney General in Shelby County, Tennessee, issued a statement on the pursuit.
“Tennessee law says that deadly force by a law enforcement officer is justified in circumstances when the officer has ‘probable cause to believe that the individual to be arrested poses a threat of serious bodily injury, either to the officers or to others unless immediately apprehended,’” it stated. “After reviewing all available materials and considering all available defenses that could be raised, it is my opinion that no criminal charges can be placed against the officer with any reasonable chance for conviction by a jury.”
In March and April of this year, Morris was selected as the National Trooper of the Year two times by two different organizations. He was also awarded the Arkansas State Trooper of the Year and given the State Police Medal of Valor.