Protests Erupt After Cop Shoots Armed Fugitive, Bodycams Were Off
Memphis, TN – An armed man wanted on numerous active warrants and for violation of his probation led officers on a chase before he was shot and wounded by a Memphis police officer on Monday evening.
The incident began at 6:20 p.m. on Sept. 17, when a Memphis police officer ran the license plate on a maroon 2002 Chevrolet Malibu, and learned that the vehicle’s insurance status was “unconfirmed,” Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings said during a Tuesday press conference.
The officer conducted a traffic stop and approached the driver, later identified as 25-year-old Martavious Banks, the Commercial Appeal reported.
When the officer asked Banks for his identification and vehicle insurance information, he told the officer “he did not have either one,” Dir. Rallings said during the press conference.
“The driver then began reaching downward, at which time the officer advised that he saw a gun inside the vehicle,” the director continued. “The officer told the driver to show him his hands, at which time the driver put the vehicle in drive and fled the scene.”
Dashcam and bodycam captured the officer’s initial contact with Banks.
Officers pursued Banks to the 1100-block of Gill Street, where he bailed out of the vehicle and took off on foot.
“The preliminary investigation revealed that, after the suspect fled the vehicle at 1258 Gill, an officer was involved in a brief foot chase, which ended with the suspect being shot,” Dir. Rallings said.
Police recovered a handgun at the scene, Memphis Police Lieutenant Karen Rudolph said, according to the Commercial Appeal.
Banks’ friends and family claimed that Banks was inside his residence when he was shot, WHBQ reported.
“I heard the gunshots. I heard when the bullet ripped through the glass,” Banks’ friend, “Travis,” told WHBQ.
“They come into our community with no consequences. No accountability,” another man told the news outlet. “They do it over and over.”
Another man asserted that the officers did not do enough to deescalate the situation, despite the fact that Banks was fleeing and armed.
“It can be diffused,” he told WHBQ. “It can be stopped before it gets to the situation of violence.”
Banks was transported to the hospital, where he remains in critical condition as of Wednesday morning.
His mother, Janice Banks, said that Banks was shot in the back, chest, and arm, and that he had undergone three surgeries as of Tuesday evening, WMC reported.
“Y’all fired at least 20 shots,” she told WHBQ. “What y’all shooting over here? A bear?”
"They used an AR-15," she said. "We're not deers and bears... We don't need that."
At the time of the incident, Banks was wanted on six warrants for offenses including probation violation, assault, and driving with a suspended license, according to the Commercial Appeal.
Within hours, dozens of residents had gathered on Gill Street to protest the officer-involved shooting.
Janice Banks told the angry crowd that officers shot her son simply because he was wanted for petty crimes. She said she doubted officers’ claims that Banks had a weapon.
"So, I'm telling all of you with these cameras, don't just listen to these police officers!” she told assembled reporters. "If he shot, show me the bullets. He's at the hospital, do a test kit on his hands. Let me see the proof that he shot a gun.”
“There’s a cover up!” she insisted.
Banks’ girlfriend, Tierra Mitchell, said she pulled up at the residence while the altercation was still underway.
“When I pulled up, they was shooting,” she said. “They was wrong. Point blank wrong.”
One protester, who said she was affiliated with activist Frank Gottie and identified herself only as “The Lil Dreadhead Activist,” incited the crowd by yelling into a megaphone, the Commercial Appeal reported.
“F--k them crooked f--king police!” she screamed repeatedly.
The group heckled and cursed the officers at the scene, and another protester declared that they would all head over to the officer’s home once he was identified.
“All we’re doing is aggravating them,” Memphis Police Major Doreen Smith told the Commercial Appeal as she left the scene late Monday night. “It’s time to go.”
The investigation into the incident is ongoing, and Memphis police declined to provide detailed information after they handed the scene over to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).
During the press conference, Dir. Rallings said that the officer who shot Banks did not have his bodycam activated during the altercation, but said other officers at the scene did have their cameras activated.
Two other officers involved in the initial traffic stop “deactivated either their body-worn cameras or in-car video systems during the [vehicle] pursuit,” he explained.
Those two officers, as well as the officer who fired his weapon, have been placed on paid administrative leave while the TBI looks into the incident.
The officers’ names have not been released, but a department official said the officer who shot Banks is a 27-year-old black male.
“While MPD is more than capable of conducting an impartial investigation, we recognize that the TBI brings an additional layer of transparency, accountability, and integrity to the outcome of this investigation,” he said.
The Memphis Police Department will simultaneously conduct an internal investigation into the involved officers’ actions.
Dir. Rallings added that he was “not confident” that department policy had been followed with regards to the officers’ failure to activate their cameras.
“Let me assure you that I will get answers, and we will hold officers accountable,” he added.