Marshals Defer to State Investigators After Shooting Spurs Riots in Memphis

Frayser community residents taunt authorities Wednesday night as protesters take to the streets in anger over the fatal shooting of a black man by U.S. Marshals earlier in the evening. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian via AP)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CN) – The U.S. Marshals Service said it will conduct an internal review after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation finishes its investigation into a task force’s fatal shooting of a 20-year-old black man it was trying to arrest Wednesday night, which sparked riots that injured 25 police officers.

In a statement issued Thursday, the federal law enforcement agency said TBI, which investigates officer-involved shootings in the Volunteer State, will be the lead investigative agency for the incident that triggered late-night unrest in Memphis.

“The U.S. Marshals Service will also conduct an internal review after the state completes its investigation,” the agency said. “As a matter of policy, the U.S. Marshals Service will not release the names of deputy marshals involved in shooting incidents, until the conclusion of all investigations.”

The statement added that the Marshals fired their weapons “in response to a threat posed” by Brandon Webber, who reportedly had multiple felony warrants.

A spokeswoman for TBI said she does not expect the agency to provide any more updates Thursday other than the one they made this morning announcing the investigation. The state agency has a policy of not identifying officers involved in shooting incidents.

Memphis police face protesters Wednesday night after U.S. Marshals shot a black man to death, serving a warrant. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian via AP)

Amy Weirich, district attorney general for Shelby County, where Memphis is located, had asked TBI to investigate the matter Wednesday evening.

“When the TBI completes its investigation, their report will be reviewed by this office to determine whether any criminal laws were violated by officers involved in the shooting,” Weirich said in a statement.

The DA said Webber’s multiple warrants – some for violent felony offenses – stemmed out of an incident that occurred June 3 in Hernando, Mississippi. The city sits about 30 miles south of Memphis.

On June 5, the Hernando Police Department posted on social media that a man, attempting to sell his red Infiniti G35 on Facebook, suffered several gunshot wounds June 3 by a man who met with him in order to test drive the vehicle. The suspect in that shooting drove away with the car.

Wednesday’s shooting caused armed officers and an angry crowd to face off late that night in a working-class north Memphis neighborhood. Police said people in the crowd threw rocks and bricks, with 25 officers suffering mostly minor injuries.

Officers cordoned off several blocks near the scene. By 11 p.m., officers had used tear gas and most of the crowd dispersed, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said Thursday morning at a 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.

The TBI said its agents were on the scene of a shooting involving a regional anticrime task force. TBI spokeswoman Keli McAlister said early Thursday that the U.S. Marshals Service 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 then proceed to ram police vehicles several times before exiting with a weapon, McAlister said. Police then opened fire, killing the man who died at the scene. McAlister did not say how many marshals fired or how many times the man was shot.

Police and protesters disperse under a cloud of tear gas Wednesday night in Memphis. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian via AP

Memphis police said none of its officers was involved in the shooting.

One local official identified the victim as Webber and said he was shot several times in his family’s front yard. Family members confirmed to the Daily Memphian that he 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.”

Rallings implored residents to wait until the TBI finishes its investigation before spreading possible misinformation about the shooting. “I need everyone to stay calm,” he said. “While police have been supportive of past protests,” Rallings added, “we will not allow any acts of violence.”

Passion Anderson, a 34-year old student, brought her 13-year-old son to the scene early Thursday. She grew up in Memphis and recently moved back to the Frayser neighborhood, a mostly low- to middle-income area with modest single-family homes and apartments. She said she worried about her son’s safety every day in Memphis which struggles with crime and gang activity.

“I just want him to see this, know what’s going on, to be conscious,” she said. “I fear for him all the time.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee noted in a statement that days before Webber’s death, the Shelby County district attorney cleared a Memphis police officer in the shooting dead of Terrance Carlton, an unarmed black man.

“The response in Frayser to the shooting last night was clearly one of pain, of frustration, of anger,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “While we in no way condone violence against police officers, the boiling point reached by some individuals in the crowd last night is the consequence of decades of injustice, discrimination and violence against black people in Memphis and beyond.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Memphis police take to the streets Wednesday night in Memphis after U.S. marshals serving a warrant shot a black man to death. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian via AP)
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