HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. — A police impersonator accused of fatally shooting an off-duty police officer in a small Kentucky city was killed by law enforcement officials in Tennessee, authorities said Friday.
James K. Decoursey, 34, of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, “had a brief encounter with law enforcement” officials in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he “was shot and died from his injuries,” Thursday evening, Kentucky State Police Trooper Rob Austin said in a statement.
The sequence of events began late Thursday afternoon, reported WREG.
Officer Phillip Meacham, 38, was driving his personal vehicle in Hopkinsville when he was pulled over and shot by a man pretending to be an officer, according to Hopkinsville Police Department.
Meacham was taken to a local hospital Thursday but he died from his injuries, said Trooper Austin.
Authorities haven’t described Decoursey’s motive for shooting the officer, but Hopkinsville Police Chief Clayton Sumner said DeCoursey had a prior arrest record, was known to police, and that while he wasn’t positive the two men knew each other personally, “considering they’re both from here, it’s very likely.”
Kentucky State Police said Decoursey fatally shot Meacham, who is an officer in Hopkinsville, then fled on foot and drove away in a stolen Chevy pickup truck.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Decoursey refused to obey commands from officers, which is when the situation escalated and the officers opened fire on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard in Clarksville just after midnight, reported WSMV.
Austin said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating.
Authorities said the officers first found the vehicle Decoursey had stolen in a parking lot at Exit 4 off Interstate 24. After receiving a call from the hotel across the street reporting that a man who matched Decoursey’s description was there asking for a cigarette, the officers found Decoursey crossing Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, reported WSMV.
“Decoursey appears to have ignored repeated commands and the situation escalated, resulting in the law enforcement officers firing upon Decoursey, killing him,” said the TBI in a statement.
Two Montgomery County deputies and a U.S. Marshal opened fire on Decoursey. None of the officers were injured in the incident. Their names have not been released.
The TBI joined the investigation into the shooting of Decoursey at the request of 19th District Attorney General John Carney. The agency will hand over their findings to the district attorney general, who will decide on the legality of the officers’ actions.
Decoursey has a history of arrests in Kentucky, reported WSMV. They found that he has charges dating back to a burglary charge in 2002. He was also charged with fraudulent use of credit cards in 2007.
Furthermore, Decoursey has been arrested five times for possession of methamphetamine. On one occasion, Decoursey appealed on the basis his home was searched illegally. A judge found the search was justified.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin tweeted about the officer’s death, saying, “There is no greater sacrifice than that of a person willing to lay down their life for another.”
Tonight a police officer in Hopkinsville, KY was killed in the line of duty…
There is no greater sacrifice than that of a person willing to lay down their life for another…
Thank God for the #ThinBlueLine
— Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) March 29, 2018
The Associated Press reported the lawmakers in the House stood for a moment of silence after Rep. Walker Wood Thomas of Hopkinsville announced that an officer had been shot.
Sumner said he spoke briefly to the slain officer’s widow while the suspect was at large, telling her two things: “We will find him,” and “I’m sorry.”
Hopkinsville is about 73 miles northwest of Nashville, Tennessee.
The mourning has penetrated Hopkinsville as reflected on the police department Facebook page:
Our hearts are heavy this morning as we mourn the loss of our brother and friend, Officer Phillip Meacham. We have placed his patrol vehicle in front of the Police Department for citizens to bring flowers, cards or anything else they may want to place on it. We will also be holding a candlelight vigil in the days to follow and will let everyone know when this will be. We ask in the meantime that you continue praying for the Meacham family and all those that are hurting from this loss.
Meacham was married with two school-age children. He had been with the Hopkinsville Police Department since last May after working for about 14 years with the Christian County Sheriff’s Department, Austin said.