Armed officers and an angry crowd faced off after a Tennessee man was fatally shot by U.S. marshals in a working-class Memphis neighborhood.
People in the crowd threw rocks and bricks, with 25 officers suffering mostly minor injuries during the clash Wednesday night in the Frayser community in north Memphis. Officers cordoned off several blocks. By 11 p.m., officers had used tear gas and most of the crowd dispersed, police director Michael Rallings said at a Thursday morning news conference. Three people were arrested.
Officers on horseback patrolled the area, and lines of police cars with flashing blue lights were parked along the street. An ambulance could be seen at the outer edge of the scene. A helicopter flew overhead as police cars trickled away. Residential streets were blocked, and a heavy police presence remained in the area Thursday.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Keli McAlister said the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force went to a Frayser home to look for a suspect with felony warrants. Marshals saw the man get into a vehicle and ram task force vehicles several times before getting out with a weapon, McAlister said. Marshals opened fire, striking the man, who died at the scene. McAlister did not say how many marshals fired or how many times the man was shot.
One local official identified the victim as Brandon Webber and said he was shot several times in his family’s frontyard. Family members confirmed to the Daily Memphian that the 21-year-old Webber died.
In identifying Webber on Twitter early Thursday, Shelby County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer said, “Every life lost should matter … every single one. How many times will this be OK? It cannot continue to be.”
Memphis police officers were called in to help with crowd control as word of the shooting spread on social media. As more protesters showed up, more Memphis officers and Shelby County sheriff’s deputies arrived. The situation escalated, and officers donned protective riot gear as people threw rocks and bricks. Police cars and a fire station were damaged, Rallings said.
The TBI is called in by district attorneys to investigate police-involved shootings in Shelby and other counties in the state. TBI investigators then give their report to the district attorney, who will decide whether to pursue charges against officers involved.
The police director implored residents to wait until the TBI finishes its investigation before spreading possible misinformation about the shooting. “I need everyone to stay calm,” Rallings said.
While police support people’s right to demonstrate, Rallings said, “we will not allow any acts of violence.”
A statement from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland expressing pride in the city’s first responders said six of the injured officers had to be treated at a hospital.
“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, police cars were damaged, a fire station’s windows were shattered and a concrete wall outside a business was torn down, he said.
Passion Anderson, a 34-year-old student, drove her 13-year-old son to the scene early Thursday, after protesters had gone and the scene had calmed down. She grew up in Memphis, but left for Ohio before moving in November to the Frayser neighborhood, a mostly low- to middle-income area north of downtown.
Anderson said she worries about her son’s safety every day.
“I just want him to see this, know what’s going on, to be conscious,” she said from the driver’s seat of her car, with her son in the passenger seat. “I fear for him all the time.”