Hours after a grand jury refused to indict three white Louisville, Kentucky, police officers in the March shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a white man pointed a gun at a group of Memphis demonstrators who had just ended a Downtown protest against the decision.
A video and photos show a white man standing in the doorway of a South Main building, aiming the weapon at the demonstrators.
Organizers said the man initially started yelling from an upstairs window at about three people who were walking down South Main. None of them were chanting or holding a bullhorn, organizer Lj Abraham said.
The man, who activists believe they’ve identified, shouted that they should get a job and stop protesting.
Harsh words were traded, organizers and participants said, but nothing that would make the man think his safety was in jeopardy, especially as he was on a second floor and they were walking in the street. Then the man said he’d come downstairs and a few minutes later, he made good on his word.
“I get death threats, but this is the first time I’ve actually had a gun pulled on me,” Abraham said Thursday.
The Memphis Police Department is investigating the incident, a spokesperson told MLK50 Thursday, but in interviews and in a press conference outside the building Thursday afternoon, demonstrators were infuriated by what they consider a lackluster response from officers who were on the scene.
Memphis Police officers were reluctant to take a police report, remained silent when asked for their badge numbers and initially said that the black object in the man’s hand was a cell phone, not a gun.
The treatment, organizers said, just exacerbated the pain they felt after seeing that Taylor’s killers would not be prosecuted; the only charges filed in the case were against an officer for shooting recklessly into neighboring apartments.
“I want MPD to feel like it’s their duty to also serve and protect us,” Abraham said.
Taylor, a Black 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was killed March 13 while police were executing a search warrant on the wrong home. On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted a former Louisville police detective, Brett Hankison, on charges of reckless endangerment for his role in the raid, but the two officers who shot Taylor six times were not charged by the prosecutor.
The decision sparked protests around the country Wednesday, including in Louisville where two police officers were shot.
Taylor’s name joined a list of innocent Black people slain by law enforcement, and came months before the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis that rocked the nation and the world. Floyd, 46, died May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes.
The incident on South Main Wednesday echoes a June incident in which a St. Louis couple pointed guns at protesters marching by their home. Lawyers Mark McCloskey, 61, and Patricia McCloskey, 63, were charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, but still were invited to the Republican National Convention.
This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.