Violent clashes in Memphis after marshals kill suspect
Police officers and journalists among those injured in protests after attempt at arrest turns fatal
New York — Violent clashes between police and protesters broke out on streets in Memphis, Tennessee, overnight after officers from the US Marshals Service fatally shot a man during an attempted arrest, officials said on Thursday.
At least two dozen police officers and two journalists were injured during the confrontation, mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement, adding that six officers were taken to hospital. The injuries were mostly minor, the police department said. It was not clear how many civilians were hurt or whether anyone was arrested.
The marshals shot the man they were trying to arrest on a warrant at about 7pm on Wednesday in the working-class neighbourhood of Frayser, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The man rammed his vehicle into ones operated by the marshals service before getting out with an unspecified weapon, the bureau said in a statement.
The service, an arm of the US department of justice, is tasked with apprehending fugitives.
The state investigations bureau did not release the man’s identity. But Tami Sawyer, an elected official representing the neighbourhood on the county board of commissioners, said he was a local resident named Brandon Webber, whose Facebook page has since filled with tributes.
An angry crowd of about 300 people gathered in the streets soon after, recalling earlier protests around the country in recent years against police brutality against civilians, particularly black men.
Some threw rocks and spat at the police, the mayor said in his statement. Police strapped on protective riot gear and tried to control the crowd by spraying chemicals, according to officials and media reports.
“The rain is the only reason the tear gas tonight didn’t permeate the entire neighbourhood,” Sawyer wrote in a series of Twitter posts after leaving the scene. “I still can’t believe that move was made.” She said many in the crowd believed that the man had been shot by US marshals more than a dozen times.
The marshals service did not respond to questions about the shooting on Thursday morning.
Mayor Strickland chastised the protesters in his statement. “Let me be clear,” he wrote, “the aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted.”