On Wednesday evening, U.S. Marshals shot and killed Webber in his Frayser neighborhood as they attempted to serve a warrant in connection with a non-fatal shooting in Mississippi.
On Friday, friends and family gathered to remember Webber, releasing green, black and silver balloons in front of his family’s home. Webber’s death revived a local and national conversation about due process and law enforcement’s ability to arrest black suspects alive.
— Desiree Stennett
(@Desi_Stennett) June 13, 2019
Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, whose district includes Frayser, noted in a column on CNN that law enforcement managed to take mass murderer Dylann Roof alive when the white man was captured after shooting and killing nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church in 2015. Police even treated him to a meal at Burger King and the police chief described him as calm.
“But Brandon Webber will never see his day in court,” Sawyer wrote. “He will never be described as ‘calm.’ He will never be seen as ‘not problematic.’ No one will grab a Whopper for him on the way to Memphis’ Bailey Justice Center. Instead of a bulletproof vest, Webber received multiple bullets.”
“Mourning, protesting and decrying Webber’s killing is not the same as proclaiming his innocence or trying to justify the crimes he may have committed,” wrote Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, who represents Frayser.
Because U.S. Marshals are not required to wear body cameras, there may not be footage of the shooting. Facebook Live videos made by residents Wednesday night showed dozens of Memphis Police officers forming a line, as they wore protective gear, including large riot shields and bully clubs. Law enforcement have said that residents threw rocks at officers and video shows an individual striking a police car with a chair.
If Memphis goes up in flames remember this
1. Stores are not more important than Black Lives
2. Police cars are not more important than Black Lives
3. Respectability is not more important than Black Lives
Our outrage is righteous and it will be heard. WE MATTER#BrandonWebber
— Kamau (@KamauWaset) June 13, 2019
Condolences, calls for investigation
At Central High, Webber was a member of the Facing History and Ourselves, which uses history to help students fight hatred today. The organization released a statement, according to the Memphis Flyer:
— Kerry Hayes (@TennKerry) June 14, 2019
“The Facing History and Ourselves community grieves the death of Brandon Webber and the subsequent violence that occurred in the Frayser neighborhood of Memphis.
“Brandon was a member of our Student Leadership Group and respected by his peers; he was passionate about breaking down stereotypes in his school and community. We offer our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
“We have no information on the details of these incidents to provide, only our condolences.
“As an organization dedicated to lifting up young people using education we are particularly saddened by this tragedy.”
The NAACP Memphis Chapter has called for an inquiry into the shooting death.
“As we grieve for the loss of another African-American young man’s life, the injury of law enforcement officers, and pray for all involved, we also want answers to questions surrounding Mr. Webber’s death,” the statement said.
“We are very interested in learning if the agents who shot and killed Mr. Webber were wearing body cameras so we can ascertain what really happened last night. We also would like to know if Webber’s felony warrant was issued as a part of the Federal Task Force mandate and if there was a better way to engage Mr. Webber once he was located.
“Unfortunately for our citizens, Memphis is again in the spotlight over the shooting of an African American. The NAACP Memphis Branch will continue to ask these questions until we obtain a response.”
Response from Memphis mayor, Sen. Blackburn
Memphis mayor Jim Strickland’s initial statements about the shooting focused on thanking law enforcement for their action. Asked in an interview with The Commercial Appeal if law enforcement could have behaved differently, Strickland was defiant. “The citizens need to do something different,” he said.
Authorities have said that more than 30 officers were injured. Typically police do not provide evidence or proof of these injuries; it is unclear if any of the injuries were sustained when police released tear gas to disperse the crowds gathered after law enforcement shot and killed Webber.
Tennessee’s newest senator, Marsha Blackburn, released a statement in which she incorrectly stated that an officer had been killed in Wednesday’s incident and referred to multiple riots, although there is no indication that there was more than one disturbance.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation, the Southern Documentary Project and Community Change.