Affidavit: Killing of man by on-duty Memphis police officer captured on surveillance camera

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Court records detail how an on-duty Memphis police officer allegedly kidnapped a man from outside his home, killed him in his patrol car and collaborated with a friend to hide the man’s body and cover up the crime.

The motive for the killing of Robert “Lil Rob” Howard, 30, is unclear. Howard’s mother wrote on a GoFundMe page for funeral expenses that her son was a father of three.

Now-former Memphis police Officer Patric Ferguson, 29, is charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, first-degree murder in perpetration of aggravated kidnapping, abuse of a corpse and tampering with or fabricating evidence, Shelby County Jail records show. He is being held without bond.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told Fox 13 in Memphis that he was “horrified” by the allegations against Ferguson. He praised the work of detectives.

“It was good investigative work,” Strickland told the news station Monday morning. “We’ve got video of the actual murder, and he confessed.”

Ferguson’s friend and co-defendant, Joshua Rogers, 28, is charged with abuse of a corpse, accessory after the fact and tampering with or fabricating evidence. He was released Sunday on $25,000 bail.

>> Memphis police officer arrested after kidnapping, murdering man while on duty, police say

Memphis police officials said over the weekend that Howard’s girlfriend called authorities Wednesday night and reported that Howard was missing. He had last been seen around 5 p.m. Tuesday in the 3500 block of Mark Twain Street.

“(The woman) advised investigators the victim’s phone was also missing, and she later was able to track the phone to the area of Lamar (Avenue) near Shelby Drive,” a criminal complaint states.

The woman used a phone-tracking app to trace Howard’s phone, which was found on the side of the road along Lamar Avenue. There was no sign of Howard, however, police officials said.

“A missing person’s report was filed, and a City Watch was issued for Robert Howard,” a police statement read. “Due to the circumstances surrounding the victim’s disappearance, the Missing Persons and Homicide bureaus worked together to gather additional information.”

Interviews with Howard’s girlfriend and additional investigation into his disappearance pointed detectives in Ferguson’s direction, authorities said. The officer and Howard knew one another, though records do not say how.

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An affidavit filed in court records details evidence against Ferguson, who had been a Memphis police officer since October 2018.

“Ferguson’s search history in his cellphone revealed multiple incriminating internet searches relating to cleaning up crime scenes and how to destroy DNA evidence,” the affidavit states. “Evidence was obtained showing Ferguson purchased cinder blocks, chains and padlocks at a hardware store, which investigators later found were used by Ferguson to hide evidence.

“Additionally, surveillance video was obtained by investigators which captured the shooting of the victim while Ferguson was on duty.”

Detectives brought Ferguson in for questioning and, after waiving his Miranda rights, the officer reportedly confessed to killing Howard. He said he drove his patrol car to Howard’s home, where he forced him into the back seat of the vehicle.

“Ferguson drove to a nearby location, where he shot the victim while in the back of the patrol car,” the affidavit states.

Police officials said in a statement that Howard was killed in the area of Frayser Boulevard and Denver Street, about a half-mile from where he was pulled from the street.

“Ferguson then drove to a nearby location, where he deposited the victim before later coming back to move the body,” according to court documents.

Read the criminal complaint below.

On Thursday, two days after the killing, Ferguson recruited Rogers to help move Howard’s body to a separate location.

“A search warrant has been executed on Ferguson’s vehicle, and bloody towels were discovered that Ferguson stated he used to clean up evidence,” the criminal complaint states.

Ferguson said he disposed of Howard’s cellphone on Lamar Avenue. Homicide detectives who executed a search warrant at his home found a .357 Taurus revolver that the officer said he used to shoot Howard.

The gun was Ferguson’s personal weapon, police officials said.

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Ferguson was arrested Sunday and immediately fired from the police force. That same day, a body believed to be Howard’s was recovered in the area of Second Street and the Wolf River bridge.

“No one is above the law,” Michael Rallings, Memphis police director, said Sunday in a statement. “Knowing that a Memphis police pfficer, someone who took an oath to protect and serve, made the decision to commit this horrific crime is devastating.

“His actions were not that of a law enforcement officer and should not reflect on fellow officers.”