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UPDATE 1-Calm prevails in Memphis neighborhood 2 days after fatal shooting, amid police patrols

Reuters | New York | Updated: 14-06-2019 18:24 IST | Created: 14-06-2019 18:22 IST
UPDATE 1-Calm prevails in Memphis neighborhood 2 days after fatal shooting, amid police patrols
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Police helicopters and squad cars patrolled the Memphis neighborhood overnight into Friday morning where a young black man was fatally shot by federal agents, with residents appearing to heed calls for calm a day after sometimes violent street demonstrations. The man who was killed, Brandon Webber, was suspected by police of shooting a man in a violent carjacking in Mississippi earlier this month.

Webber's death prompted hundreds of his neighbors to demonstrate in nearby streets on Wednesday night in Frayser, a working-class, predominantly black neighborhood. Some protesters threw rocks while police in riot gear used chemical agents to control the crowd. Friday morning broke peacefully in Frayser, with no new clashes reported.

The Memphis Police Department said 36 police officers and sheriff's deputies were left with minor injuries and more than a dozen police vehicles were damaged during Wednesday night's protests. Police arrested and charged three of the protesters with disorderly conduct; one of the three was also charged with inciting a riot. Local activists saw the week's events as a chance for dialogue between police and citizens.

Hunter Demster, a longtime Memphis resident and community activist, said he was on the scene of the shooting within an hour of it happening. "I hate that this happened, both sides, the whole community, needs to take a long look at what they're doing," he said, describing the neighborhood's reaction as an outcome of longstanding tensions with police.

Terrence Boyce, 30, who is running to be the next mayor of Memphis, a predominantly black city, said the community and the police "need to continue to figure out how we are going to bridge the gap between the police officers and the community." "I believe it can happen," he said.

The demonstrations in Memphis evoked memories of a string of sometimes violent protests against police brutality that broke out in other U.S. cities in recent years. Those clashes, notably the many days of protests after an unarmed black man was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, helped give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Officers from the U.S. Marshals Service had approached Webber, a 20-year-old father of two young children, with arrest warrants on Wednesday for the Mississippi shooting. Some marshals fatally shot him after he rammed his vehicle into the marshal's vehicles and threatened them, according to the Marshals Service. A spokesman for the Marshals Service declined to address early reports that Webber may have had some kind of weapon.

Webber was suspected of shooting a man five times at point-blank range and leaving him for dead after taking the man's car for a test drive on June 3 in Hernando, a small city near Memphis across the Mississippi state line. Webber then stole the car, according to John Champion, the district attorney for Mississippi's DeSoto County. Champion defended the marshals' actions in a news conference on Thursday. "This was a violent felon who did not obviously want to go to jail," he told reporters. "It's obvious that he had no appreciation for the value of human life." The carjacking victim is a resident of Hernando and remains in a hospital, Champion said.


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