FOX13 Investigates: Technology solving interstate shootings in other areas may help Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Even with their best efforts, Memphis Police are falling behind on solving interstate shootings, according to a FOX13 Investigates examination of data, even as in other places, technology is being attributed to increasing the rate the shootings are being solved.

The pictures around Sharon Ward’s house remind her of better moments.

“LaDarius was more of a family man,” Ward said of her son, LaDarius Spates.

Spates was shot and killed on I-40 in Memphis near Sycamore View Rd., according to Memphis Police. He died Oct. 6 last year. After getting onto the ramp his car veered across westbound traffic, hitting the barrier before coming to a stop.

Spates was 26.

“Most of his time was spent with family here or with his daughter,” she said.

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  • “I’m angry at the person who decided that my son didn’t deserve to be on this side. “It’s a whole lot of frustration with police and with the questions that I’ve asked and the answers that I received.

    Chief of her questions is what she’s told by detectives, that despite cameras that monitor traffic on Memphis interstates, no camera footage of her son’s shooter exists.

    In the past four years, 315 shootings have happened on Memphis interstates, a pace of one every 5 days. Lt. Col. is one of the people charged with overseeing those investigations.

    FOX13 Investigates asked for police records on shootings, the number happening, and the number solved; police clear 13 percent of cases.

    FOX13 Investigates wanted to know what is being done to solve the shootings in other cities.

    “Expressway shootings are very unique. It’s a rolling crime scene,” said Illinois State Police Lt. Col. Matthew Gainer, speaking over Zoom.

    Just up I-55, in Chicago, the state invested $12.5 million in a network of automated license plate reading cameras, rolled out last year. ISP police said the rate of shootings solved increased by nearly 30 percent.

    Three hundred of the cameras will be installed in the Chicagoland area by year end.

    “The license plate readers give our investigators an absolute place to start their investigation. I can’t see a reason why other jurisdictions wouldn’t have those same successes,” Lt. Col. Gainer said.

    FOX13 Investigates asked Memphis Police.

    “We are using the latest technology available to us along with the other agencies in the local area. … I’ll just say the latest technology available,” said Memphis Police Lt. Col. Stanley Johnson.

    In an effort to protect their investigations, Lt. Col. Johnson said their answer would go no further, but the department has said, publicly, that a partnership with Tennessee Highway Patrol, saturating highways to enhance a visible presence, is working.

    MPD said their numbers show a near 50 percent drop in incidents this year over last, but still, the vast majority of cases, and the families behind them, without what could be justice.

    “…[I]t continues to happen. It continues to happen,” Ward said. “No matter how heavy this this is for me, I have to do this for somebody who was always in my corner.”

    Repeated attempts to get Gov. Bill Lee and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to comment for our story went unanswered.

    We wanted to ask them if they were examining other ways to help Memphis Police increase their case closure rate. We also wanted to know if they’ve been in contact with legislative leaders about funding any sort of camera program.