Memphis police battling growing number of interstate shootings

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 9:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Loved ones say 26-year-old Ladarius Spates was a bright spirit who always had a smile on his face.

They say he was a fantastic father to his three-year-old daughter, Jasmine, a little girl who now has to grow up without her father.

Sharon Ward is a heartbroken mother looking for answers. Her son Ladarius Spates died earlier this month in an interstate shooting in Memphis.

“He just wanted to make sure he was an awesome father to his daughter and he lived up to that title,” said Ward. “I just want to know why this happened. Why?”

Jasmine, called “Jazzy” by everyone, did a lot of things with her daddy. The family shared Facebook photos and cell phone video showing Ladarius Spates teaching his daughter how to change a tire, make a snowman, and comb out her hair after bath time. Ladarius Spates called her his princess and the light of his life.

“I know normally when things like this happen, a person or family member will say, you know, he was a good person, he didn’t deserve this,” said Ladarius Spates’ brother, Anthony Spates. “Like, literally, my brother didn’t deserve this.”

Memphis police said Ladarius Spates was found shot to death around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 6, inside his light blue 2005 Mustang. Witnesses told investigators they saw his car cross several lanes of I-40 before coming to a rest near the Sycamore View exit.

Anthony Spates said he’d like to see more law enforcement on the highways, like during the Operation Grizzly Bear saturation in 2019.

MPD data showed there were 45 interstate shootings that year. The number climbed to 83 in 2020. And so far this year, there have been 99 interstate shootings in Memphis.

Arrests have been made in just 16 of those cases. Ladarius Spates’ murder is among the unsolved.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said his mother. “I just want to know why because we need closure. We don’t revenge, we just want justice.”

“His daughter,” said Anthony Spates lowering his head into his hands, “doesn’t deserve to grow up without a father in her life.”

Memphis police, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol have teamed up this year for “Slow Down Memphis,” which is an effort to curb violence on the interstates. MPD kicked off the program in August.

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