Police Say Man Killed in Memphis Was Sought in Shooting

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—A young man shot and killed by federal agents, as they tried to arrest him in Memphis, touching off violent protests, was wanted in the shooting of a man in Mississippi earlier this month, law enforcement officials said on June 13.

At least two dozen police officers were injured on the streets of Memphis in demonstrations after Brandon Webber, 20, was killed late June 12 by members of a federal fugitive task force seeking to take him into custody on aggravated assault charges.

In the aftermath of clashes between police and protesters, the district attorney for DeSoto County, Mississippi, where Webber was suspected of shooting a man to steal his car, on the afternoon of June 13, defended the actions of the federal marshals.

“This was a violent felon who did not obviously want to go to jail. And [the marshals] ended up, from my knowledge, doing what they had to do up there, not only to protect themselves but protect other people in the neighborhood,” DeSoto County prosecutor John Champion told reporters. “It’s obvious that he had no appreciation for the value of human life.”

Wanted for Mississippi Incident

The marshals were seeking Webber on warrants stemming from a June 3 incident in Hernando, Mississippi, which is just south of Memphis.

Champion said Webber shot his victim five times point blank after the two men had taken the car on a test drive, then drove off in the stolen vehicle. It was in that car that federal marshals encountered Webber when he was killed, the prosecutor said.

The victim, a Hernando resident who has not been publicly identified, remains hospitalized but is expected to survive.

A second suspect in the June 3 attack remains at large. Police said they believe the second suspect drove Webber to the location where he met the man selling his car but was not present for the shooting itself.

Webber was shot after he rammed his car into vehicles driven by federal agents at about 7 p.m. on June 12 in the working-class Memphis neighborhood of Frayser, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

He was reportedly carrying a weapon when he got out of his vehicle, the bureau said, without elaborating. A later statement from the U.S. Marshals Service made no reference to a weapon and a spokesman declined to say whether Webber had one.

Prior Arrests

Webber had been arrested previously for possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and driving with an expired or suspended license and an improperly displayed registration plate, public records show. It was not immediately clear if he was ever prosecuted.

As news of Webber’s death spread, several hundred people gathered, and some threw rocks and spat at the police, Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement.

Police strapped on protective riot gear and tried to control the crowd by spraying chemicals, according to officials and media reports. Video footage of the protests showed one man bashing a police car with a chair. The mayor said multiple police cars were vandalized.

At least 24 officers and deputies were injured, with six hospitalized with mostly minor injuries, the mayor said. Two journalists also were injured. The injuries were mostly minor, police said, and the crowd eventually dispersed.

As darkness fell on June 13, police helicopters flew over the area and squad cars patrolled the neighborhood.

Shortly before being shot, Webber posted a Facebook video in which he rapped and smoked what appeared to be marijuana.

In the video, he looked out the window and said he saw police. With a laugh, he looked directly into the camera and said what sounded like the officers would “have to kill me.”

Webber was the eldest of eight sons, his father, Sonny Webber, said in an interview on June 13. He had two young children of his own, a 2-year-old boy and a newborn daughter, and was expecting a second daughter soon.

Sonny Webber said his son had sold marijuana but was not a drug dealer.

“He wasn’t a bad guy,” his father said. “He wasn’t even living long enough to be a bad guy.”

By Brendan O’Brien