Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus The Article iPad Core Values Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive Story ideas

Memphis shooting sparks unrest

Rock-throwers injure 35 officers after marshals kill man by ADRIAN SAINZ The Associated Press | June 14, 2019 at 2:35 a.m. | Updated June 14, 2019 at 2:35 a.m.
Memphis police face angry protesters Wednesday in the Frayser community after a youth was shot by U.S. marshals.

MEMPHIS -- Police appealed for calm in a tense Memphis neighborhood Thursday where about 35 officers were injured by a rock-throwing crowd after a black man's shooting death by U.S. marshals on a fugitive task force.

Elected officials condemned the violence, and the police chief pleaded for patience while the shooting is investigated. But unanswered questions left many people angry as they recalled a litany of police-involved shootings around the country.

Shortly after the task force shot 20-year-old Brandon Webber on Wednesday evening, people began to gather in the area and their numbers swelled as some livestreamed the scene on social media. Memphis police initially responded in street uniforms, then returned in riot gear as people began throwing rocks and bricks.

Mayor Jim Strickland said about 35 officers were injured, raising the toll from the 24 authorities reported earlier. He said six needed hospital treatment.

During the nighttime unrest, officers cordoned off several blocks in the Frayser neighborhood north of downtown and arrested three people. By 11 p.m., officers had used tear gas and most of the crowd dispersed, police director Michael Rallings said.

The police director implored residents to wait until the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation finishes its probe and refrain from spreading possible misinformation about the shooting.

"I need everyone to stay calm," Rallings said.

Separately, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said through a spokesman that the shooting would be fully investigated.

On Thursday morning, officers on horseback patrolled, and lines of police cars with flashing blue lights were parked along the street. An ambulance waited at the outer edge, and a helicopter flew overhead.

Webber's home is in a residential area of the working-class neighborhood of north Memphis.

On Thursday evening, dozens gathered near the house.

A couple of men spoke into megaphones, and some motorists who drove by honked their horns and shouted messages of encouragement. There was a light police presence with a couple police cars parked at a nearby fire station that was damaged during Wednesday night's unrest.

The Rev. Andre Johnson said he was standing among the protesters when tear gas was released Wednesday night. He said he heard no police order to disperse.

"All of a sudden, tear gas came out, and of course, people then began to disperse," Johnson said, adding his eyes and throat stung.

Johnson said people are upset because they still do not know why the marshals sought to arrest Webber, calling him a beloved member of the community.

"The problem with it is they feel that police and the administration and city officials do not treat them as humans," Johnson said. "That's what it really boils down to: You are not worthy of an explanation."

Spokesman Keli McAlister at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force went to a Frayser home to look for a suspect with felony warrants. She said marshals spotted the man getting into a vehicle and it then proceeded to ram task force vehicles several times before he got out with a weapon.

Marshals then opened fire, killing the man. McAlister did not say how many marshals fired or how many times the man was shot.

The investigative bureau identified the dead man as Webber.

Authorities provided no details about the charges that prompted the task force's interest in him. A criminal history for him released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lists two arrests, in April 2017 and April 2018, on charges including weapons possession, drug dealing, and driving without a proper license. Court records show the 2018 charges were not prosecuted and the 2017 charges were dismissed.

His father, Sonny Webber, said his son leaves a 2-year-old boy and a young daughter, with another daughter on the way.

The mayor, Strickland, expressed pride in the city's first responders.

"I'm impressed by their professionalism and incredible restraint as they endured concrete rocks being thrown at them and people spitting at them," the mayor tweeted.

At least two journalists were injured, multiple police cars were damaged, a fire station's windows were shattered and a concrete wall outside a business was torn down, he said.

Information for this article was contributed by Jonathan Mattise, Rebecca Yonker and Rhonda Shafner of The Associated Press.

A Section on 06/14/2019

Print Headline: Memphis shooting sparks unrest


Sponsor Content