Facing the reality of Phil Trenary’s homicide; investigation ongoing

Consensus: Phil Trenary stayed focused on helping Memphis develop its potential.

The sobering reality of Phil Trenary’s fatal shooting was about 15 hours old when Old Allen Task Force officers got behind a white Ford F-150 that fit the description of the vehicle spotted leaving the Downtown homicide scene Thursday night.

Trenary, the president and chief executive officer of the Greater Memphis Chamber, was gunned down shortly before 8 p.m. in the 500 block of South Front St.

Memphis Police Department officers arrived within 10 minutes, one neighborhood observer said. At 10:20 p.m., this MPD tweet went out: “The suspect responsible is described as a male Black with dreadlocks wearing a blue shirt who was in a white 4-dr F150.”

Like police throughout the city, Old Allen Task Force officers had been primed to be on alert  for the suspect vehicle. On Friday about 10:55 a.m., a truck fitting that description caught the attention of officers at Watkins and Signal, which is about 11 to 13 minutes (7.4 to 8.1miles) away from where Trenary was found dead on the east side of the sidewalk in the 500 block of Front Street.

Police shifted into traffic-stop mode, but the truck’s driver refused to stop, according to Lt. Karen Rudolph, public information officer. The tag on the truck was checked; it came back stolen.

With police lights flashing and sirens waling, there ensued a high-speed chase that ended with a spectacular crash in the area of East McLemore and Mississippi in South Memphis. The truck severed from the impact of the crash, with the cab on one side of the street and the truck bed on the other.

Four people – included two who where riding in the stolen truck – were ushered to the hospital. The two people in the truck were taken into custody. At the time, it was not known whether those taken into custody were connected to Trenary’s homicide.

“We do know that the vehicle that they were occupying is reported stolen and it does fit the description of the vehicle that was seen fleeing the scene of the shooting,” Rudolph said in a media release.

The Greater Memphis Chamber had sponsored a four-mile run that began Downtown about 6 p.m. on Thursday. Trenary lived Downtown.

“This is a difficult day,” Richard W. Smith, chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber, said in a released statement.

“We are grieving today, but we remain committed to Phil’s vision for Memphis. This was a man who woke up every day and worked to bring jobs and opportunities to our community. We owe it to him and to his legacy to continue that work.”

Extending condolences to Trenary’s family, friends, colleagues at the Greater Memphis Chamber and the Memphis community, Smith said, “Phil believed, as we all still believe, that Memphis’s best days are ahead.

“Last night, we lost a leader, a neighbor, a friend and a champion of our cause. Through his time at the helm of the Greater Memphis Chamber, he pushed to move our city and our region forward. He took on difficult challenges, remaining laser focused on one goal: for Memphis to win.”

Mayor Jim Strickland, who noted his shock and extended his condolences to Trenary’s family via social media Thursday night, reflected on him at City Hall on Friday.

“Phil loved Memphis,” he said. “He was one of the best cheerleaders this city has. I mourn his death.”

Throughout Memphis, the state of Tennessee and myriad places beyond, a wide range of individuals and groups let it be known that Trenary was seriously respected as a person and a civic contributor.

Here are some of those reflections:

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris: “It’s hard to learn of the passing of Phil Trenary, someone who made so many contributions during his life. He made his mark in business and in service. And right down to his core, he believed in our community’s potential. I will pray for his family. This is a terrible loss.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam: “Our hearts are broken with the news of the loss of Phil Trenary. Phil has been a wonderful friend to Crissy and me and great advocate for Memphis. Our hearts go out to his family and his associates and the Memphis community.”

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09): “Phil Trenary was a civic leader and businessman, and was extremely important to the City of Memphis. He was totally immersed in the Memphis community, both as a celebrant and as a contributor. He will be missed. My thoughts go out to his family.”

Calvin Anderson, president of Best Media Properties, the parent company of The New Tri-State Defender: “Phil Trenary was an outstanding leader for the Memphis Chamber and to me – and so many others – a valued and dear friend. Phil loved Memphis and was so committed to its progress and success.  Few people advanced diversity and inclusion in the economics of the community as Phil Trenary did. Phil was a respected and knowledgable voice for business and economic development in the state and region.  As a board member of the Chamber I saw this first hand. His dedication is admired and his presence and optimism will be sorely missed.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.): “I am shocked to learn of Phil Trenary’s death. He was a good friend and a strong voice for Memphis and Tennessee. Honey and I send our sympathy to his family and to the entire Memphis community on his loss.”

Eric Robertson, President Community LIFT | River City Capital Investment Corp.: “Phil Trenary was a champion for all that is right with Memphis and an agent of change for what he believed Memphis could be. I am deeply saddened to hear of Phil’s passing and extend sincere condolences to his family.”

The Board and Staff of the National Civil Rights Museum: “The National Civil Rights Museum is deeply saddened by the tragic and unexpected loss of Phil Trenary. Phil was both a partner and friend of the Museum. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Shelby County Delegation (via Vice Chairman Sen. Sara  Kyle (District 30): “On behalf of the entire Shelby County Delegation, we send our condolences to the family of Phil Trenary. Phil’s dedication to our city was unparalleled. He was a tireless advocate for Shelby County, spending much of his time in Nashville promoting better economic opportunities for our citizens. This is truly a tragic loss and he will be sorely missed by so many.”

Shelby County Assessor of Property Melvin Burgess noted that as chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners he had worked with Trenary to improve business contracting opportunities in County Government for women and minorities.

Bill Gibbons, president, Memphis Shelby Crime Commission: “The death of Phil Trenary is a tragedy for his family, his friends, and our city.  He was a friend and someone who was determined every day to make a positive difference. His death is a great loss. We must continue working together to end senseless violence in our community.”

Lori Turner Wilson, Red Rover Sales and Marketing Strategy: “We at RedRover are resolved in remembering what he would have wanted in this very moment: celebrate what’s good in this city, work together to bring about positive change that needs to happen, and don’t lose hope.”

(This story includes a report from TSD Associate Publisher/Executive Editor Karanja A. Ajanaku.)