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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — State troopers stand watch on June 13, 2017 at Remmel Park in Newport the day after Newport police Lt. Patrick Weatherford was fatally shot. - Photo by Jeff Mitchell

NEWPORT -- A 19-year-old man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to first-degree murder in the shooting death of Police Lt. Patrick Weatherford in 2017.

Derrick Heard was sentenced to 42 years in prison, according to a news release from Prosecutor Attorney Henry Boyce.

Weatherford was pursuing Heard on foot after he fled the scene of a reported vehicle break-in at the parking lot of Newport High School on June 12, 2017, according to Jackson County Circuit Court filings.

Heard was 16 and fleeing -- first on a bicycle and then on foot -- when Weatherford caught up with him.

Weatherford apprehended the suspect near Bowen Street and Remmel Road, about five blocks west of the school, and told a dispatcher that he had a weapon, according to an arrest affidavit written by Arkansas State Police investigator Sgt. Scott Pillow.

Weatherford then was shot, with the bullet striking him in the abdomen, investigators said. A medical examiner reported that the bullet traveled to his heart. Medical personnel transported Weatherford to Unity Health-Harris Medical Center in Newport, where he died.

Heard also fired at Newport Police Sgt. Shane Rogers, who returned fire, but neither of them was injured by the gunfire, according to court filings.

Weatherford, 41, was a 15-year veteran of the Newport Police Department.

Besides first-degree murder, Heard also pleaded guilty to attempted capital murder, breaking and entering, theft of property and possession of a handgun.

Circuit Judge Harold S. Erwin sentenced Heard to 24 years in prison on each murder charge, but he ordered the sentences to run concurrently. Heard was sentenced to six additional years in prison on each of the other three charges, to run consecutively.

Heard's trial was scheduled to begin Nov. 2.

"This case has been without question one of great impact to the citizens of this community as well as to the law enforcement community in general," said Boyce.

Heard was a juvenile at the time of the homicide, but he was charged as an adult.

"Despite the charging decision, the Arkansas Fair Sentencing of Minors Act, implemented in 2017, imposed mandatory parole eligibility in murder cases involving juvenile offenders at 30 years," said Boyce.

Heard initially pleaded innocent by reason of mental defect or disease.

According to court records, Heard's mother has said her son has behavioral problems and was prescribed medication for "post-traumatic depression." Heard had been arrested for theft while in the seventh grade, and was on supervision at the time of Weatherford's death.

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