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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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MPD names officers in police shooting case

Now it’s public. The names of the three police officers suspended in the aftermath of the shooting of Martavious Banks have been released by the Memphis Police Department.

Officer Jamarcus Jeames, 26, “fired shots” at Banks after being involved  in the initial traffic stop.

Christopher Nowell, 27, was involved in the initial traffic stop and made the scene after the shooting.

Michael R. Williams II, 27, also was involved in the initial traffic stop and made the scene after the shooting.

Banks, 25, still was listed in critical condition at Regional One Health on Wednesday. He was shot on the evening of Sept. 17 after driving away from the scene of an initial traffic stop at Gill and Pillow in South Memphis and fleeing on foot after he was stopped nearby a second time. Police reported seeing a gun in the car Banks was driving and have said one was found near where he later was shot.

All three policemen were assigned to the Airways Station. Jeames was hired in March of 2017. Nowell was hired in September of 2014 and Williams was hired in August of 2015.

Williams is related to Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams; MPA Vice President Essica Cage now is handling the union’s representation. She had not returned calls to MPA headquarters by the TSD’s print deadline Wednesday.

Tempers flared during a protest at Memphis Police Association headquarters. (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

Cage has said in a video posted on the police union’s Facebook page that the MPA wants to be as transparent as possible in its representation of the three officers. She has said the union trusted that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would conduct a thorough and impartial investigation and that the union seeks the same from MPD’s internal review.

The naming of the officers came one day after a meeting of the Memphis City Council’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee was briefly disrupted by activist Pamela Moses, who was not allowed to speak and was escorted out of the room shouting questions about why the officers involved in the shooting had not been identified.

The Tuesday meeting was slated to discuss a joint resolution to request TBI Investigations for all police involved shootings and support for Senate Bill 2023/House Bill 2091.

But committee members spent a large portion of the meeting asking police officials about the body cameras that were not functioning when an officer shot Banks, a 25-year-old father of two.

Asked why the cameras of key officers were not working, Deputy MPD Director James Ryall said, “It was either a malfunction or they were turned off by the officers.”

Councilwoman Patrice Robinson asked if there were guidelines for punishment in the event that an officer intentionally turns off a camera. And, if so, had the guidelines been distributed to officers.

“…If you send me home…with my paycheck, that’s not punishment, that’s a vacation,” Robinson said.

Robinson said it concerns her that officers have to worry about turning on cameras, especially in tense life and death situations.

“This is really concerning to me that you have to turn the cameras on,” she said. “It’s just a bit much.”

Council Chairman Berlin Boyd said he was puzzled about how all of the cameras were not working at the same time and he asked Ryall why.

“There are certain aspects of the case we can’t get into,” Ryall replied. Police officials have said there is some video footage from the scene of the shooting but have not given details.

Boyd said the city spent roughly $7 million on the cameras and another $4 million for storage. He said the city may be due a refund from the company if some of the cameras are not working properly.

Boyd said there are camera systems in Georgia where officers have no control and can’t turn the cameras off.

City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr., who recently was elected to the Shelby County Commission, said the current memorandum of understanding among law enforcement, where the TBI is called in only when a person shot by police dies, “is completely unacceptable.”

Ford said he is working with Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and thinks they can have proposed legislation to bring back to the council in a couple of weeks. Sawyer said she will take up the matter before the Law Enforcement Committee, which she chairs on the commission, next week.

“At the end of the day, all we want to see is justice,” said Ford.

The shooting of Banks touched off protests. Police moved forcefully last week after determining that protesters were blocking the street near the Airways precinct and refusing warnings. Six protesters were arrested (one charged with assault) and one injured.

At the end of Tuesday’s committee meeting, Moses asked whether there would be any time for public comment. When told there would not be, she pleaded for three minutes of the committee’s time.

“We have legitimate concerns and the city of Memphis has 24 hours to meet our demands,” said Moses. “…A man is about to die and you won’t give us three minutes, that’s not right.”

She was escorted out of the meeting room shouting that she wanted to know the names of the officers involved in the shooting and asking why Rallings wasn’t there.

If they became law, the House and Senate bills would require all officer-involved shootings that result in injury or death be investigated by the TBI.

Ford said Tuesday’s meeting answered some questions but raised others, “…as far a discipline, from a slap on a wrist, all the way to being terminated, but most of the items that we need answers to are the MOU and some policies that have not been, at least in my eyes, thought out enough.”

After the meeting Sawyer agreed that the biggest issue is the memorandum of understanding that allows law enforcement agencies to do their own investigations in officer-involved shootings that do not result in a fatality.

“A lot of people had questions about what Councilman Ford and I were trying to bring forward and I think it (committee meeting) was helpful in that regard,” Sawyer said. “It answered questions for the public, for the city council to see where we were headed.

“Really we’re trying to change the memorandum of understanding. That puts pressure on all the bodies that signed the MOU with the TBI – that’s the Attorney General, the MPD and the Sheriff’s Department,” Sawyer said.

“It says that the TBI only gets involved in deaths, but we know that serious shooting injuries are also important because Martavious Banks is still in the hospital today from his shooting injuries…”

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