Two teens are in custody for gunning down a 16-year-old boy during a funeral procession through the Hyde Park community on Saturday afternoon.
But for one family living on Hunter Avenue, the arrests amount to too little too late.
“Saturday evening was a wake-up call for me,” said Joe Elliott, a witness to the shooting and resident of the North Memphis neighborhood.
“One minute, we were watching a beautiful funeral procession with a horse-drawn carriage. There was music and children were singing. When the procession turned onto another street, the back of the parade erupted in gunfire. People were screaming and running. We have to move.”
According to Elliott, the Oct. 23 shooting unfolded when gunmen emerged from bushes and out of an apartment complex with assault rifles. They were gunning for the shooter who killed “PSO Emmitt,” a young rapper named Emmitt Beasley, a Southwind High School student who had turned out for the funeral.
“It was like something right out of the Wild, Wild West,” said Elliott. “That was my wake-up call. That’s it for me. With the things I am trying to do in the community and me talking to law enforcement, we just don’t feel safe anymore. We’ve been here four years, but we are leaving. There is shooting every night. Last night, we hit the floor twice. The police were called, and it took them 45 minutes to get here.”
In addition to the killing of Beasley, another teen was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
According to Memphis Police Department Sgt. Louis Brownlee, the public information officer, police responded to the shooting in front of 2153 Hunter Ave. Beasley died at the scene, and the second victim, also a 16-year-old male, was transported to Regional One in critical condition.
On Tuesday (Oct. 25), two males were arrested, ages 15 and 16. Both are being charged with first-degree murder. The suspects were known to the victims.
“I can just see that child laying on the ground with his brains coming out of his head,” said Elliott. “He hadn’t died yet. He was still breathing, and I watched him gasp and take his last breath. It’s just not safe here.”
Stevie Moore, founder of Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives (FFUN), said gun violence has taken over the streets, but people remain complacent.
“This really bothers me,” said Moore. “Where is the outrage? Where is the anger? I don’t see the same reaction as when a white police officer kills one of our children. Everybody is ready to march and protest about the brutality against Blacks. But when our children are killing each other, nobody’s saying anything. This was a funeral procession.”
Moore has staged community walks through neighborhoods with high crime rates and gun violence.
“Can you imagine if we could get three, four, 5,000 folks united against this evil? Moore asked. “Criminals are consistent, but good, law-abiding people are not. It’s not enough just to call for change. We have to stand against all this gun violence that has taken over our streets. Our seniors are too afraid to go down to the corner store for fear of all the shooting.”
MPD Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said “gun crime and violent crimes” are among the highest priority, adding that the solution is going to involve everyone playing their part.
Despite the arrest of 3,000 people for possession of illegal guns, and the seizure of more than 4,000 weapons, the city’s record-breaking murder rate last year will be exceeded in 2021, if the present pace continues.
On Monday, 225 murders had been recorded this year; more than 10 percent of the victims have been under 18.
Elliott said a candlelight vigil is planned this weekend at the site where Beasley was shot down.
“It’s not over,” said Elliott. “The streets are talking, and there will probably be more shooting. These kids are not receiving any guidance at home because there are no fathers in the home. Boys are raising themselves, and these little girls, too. You have 13- and 14-year-olds just walking down the street with assault rifles.
“We have just stopped going to the store. We feel unsafe here. I’ve got my wife and daughter to think about. We have to go.”
Elliott recalled a bullet coming through the back wall of their house.
“A bullet came through the back wall, hit the mirror, went through my wife’s coat, and ended up in her purse,” Elliott said. “There’s a big hole in my dresser.”