Four dead; three others wounded. Seven shootings coursed over approximately 19.5 hours. Swaths of the state’s second-largest city were sheltered in place on the recommendation of law enforcement.
And, the accused perpetrator of the mayhem is back behind bars after having been released early from a three-year prison sentence for another violent episode.
As a social-media poster declared after having come gun-in-sight close to the mass shooter, “That Shyt Real….”
Greater Memphis breathed moderately easier after learning that 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly had been taken into custody at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday. Only moderately because violent crime, particularly by gun-toting menaces, has so many on edge.
Memphis Police Chief Cereyn “C.J.” Davis confirmed that Memphis police and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies took Kelly into custody, without incident, after a high-speed chase ended with Kelly crashing his stolen car near Ivan and Hodge in the community of Whitehaven.
Two guns were visible inside the car, Davis said during an early-hours press conference on Thursday. No motives for the rampage were announced.
Kelly was injured in the crash. Charges were imminent, pending his transport to the jail at the Walter L. Bailey Jr. Criminal Justice Center at 201 Poplar Ave. Downtown.
“Once again our community has been faced with another senseless, senseless act of violence,” said Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr., taking a turn as a string of elected officials paraded to the podium.
“Our citizens of Memphis and Shelby County were going about their business. Ordinary citizens doing ordinary things. Getting off of work. Picking up children from daycare … when it was all of a sudden shattered. Many families were shattered tonight. Many families will never, never get off the horrific violence that we saw one individual inflict on this city tonight.”
Bonner moved to assure the citizenry that the law enforcement entities that cooperated to apprehend Kelly would, along with other entities, work together to “try to curb the senseless violence here in Memphis and Shelby County.”
Mayor Jim Strickland said he was “angry” for the victims’ families and for the citizens who had to shelter in place until the suspect was caught.
“This is no way for us to live and it is not acceptable,” said the second-term, term-limited Strickland.
Detailing that Kelly previously had been charged with criminal attempted first-degree murder before pleading guilty in April 2021 to the lesser charge of aggravated assault, Strickland noted that Kelley had been sentenced to three years.
Kelly served 11 months in prison, gaining release on March 16, 2022.
“These evil actions show why truth in sentencing is a must,” said Strickland, referencing a measure passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and enacted recently. “If Mr. Kelly (had) served his whole three-year sentence, he would still be in prison today. And four of our fellow citizens would still be alive. …
“From now on, three years for aggravated assault means three years. Our judicial system is too often a revolving door. … We need our courts, we need additional state laws to stop this revolving door. … And I need the public to make your voices heard by those decision-makers.”
Acknowledging the recent kidnap-murder of kindergarten teacher Eliza Fletcher, Strickland said, “This has been a painful week in our city but I have hope for Memphis. I have love for Memphis. And I know that united we will endure.”
Newly-elected Shelby County District Atty. Gen. Steve Mulroy said one of the things he was going to do was pray.
“I’m going to pray for the victims and their families. I’m also going to say a prayer of thanks for law enforcement who acted superbly today and all week long. …”
Mulroy also recommended that “if we know somebody, a friend or loved one, who is seemingly experiencing emotional distress, maybe on the verge of snapping, particularly if they are armed, reach out to them. Show them that you care. And, if appropriate, contact law enforcement.”
The policy in the district attorney’s office is that “repeat violent offenders deserve a strong response. … We will be working closely with law enforcement … to bring appropriate charges at the appropriate time to make sure that justice is done in this case.”
If law enforcement, different aspects of government, “all of us as a community, if we come together, we will find the strength to stem this tide of violence.”
Kelly was driving a Dodge Challenger carjacked in Southaven, Mississippi when he crashed. About two hours earlier, police had issued an alert for a male suspect driving a light blue Infiniti and believed responsible for multiple shootings.
Police said Kelly subsequently killed a woman in Memphis and took her grey Toyota SUV. That was before he carjacked the Dodge Challenger in Southaven.
Kelly recorded his actions on Facebook, police said.
The first homicide was reported at 12:56 Wednesday morning, with Kelly eventually identified as the killer.
Asked what citizens could do to fight crime, Davis said her personal commitment also was to pray and she encouraged others to do so.
“At the same time, we need to reach out to those individuals in our community that we know are committing crimes. And we know that we can pick up the telephone and call somebody to help us intervene and get them the help that they need. Or, take them through the judicial process and prosecute them for the crimes they are committing. We need the community’s help.”
In response to another question, Davis said officers had exhibited “unbelievable resilience in the last several weeks. They’ve been shot at. You may know about the one time, but they have been shot at several times. They continue to come to work. They continue to do the work because they know the community depends upon them.”
Earlier, as officers continued to comb the scene where Kelly was apprehended, Stevie Moore – president and founder of Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives/FFUN “Stop the Killing” – paused from a self-appointed task. He lived nearby and was putting up signs imploring people to do just what the signs called for: “Stop the Killing.”
“I live straight down there to the left,” said Moore, pointing in the darkness. “I’ve been listening to it for the last two hours. They went to one spot to the next stop. I didn’t know they were going to end up over here.
“I put up signs. I’m going back home to put up some more signs … all up and down here. Keep putting this message out, man. We are blaming law enforcement, but don’t you know that somebody knew what this guy was doing? Somebody knew this guy. … Now we are so quiet …
“It’s scary man.”
Two of the four fatalities have been identified:
Dewayne Tunstall, 24, was killed Wednesday at about 1 a.m. while visiting in the 3100 block of Lyndale Avenue in Highland Heights about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The victim of a carjacking at 7:23 p.m., Allison Parker, a medical assistant at the Family Practice Center in West Memphis, was fatally shot at Poplar and Evergreen.