Memphis leads nation in use of deadly force by police, activists charge

Memphis, Tenn. – The U.S. Justice Department is taking action to curb the use of deadly force by police in Albuquerque, N.M., but deadly force by police in Memphis, Tenn., is the worst in the country, according to a citizens’ watchdog group.

Justin ThompsonThe group, the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation, has asked the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate “a pattern or practice” of misconduct by the Memphis Police Department. Memphis police killed 23 people in 2012 and 2013 – the largest number of people killed by police in this time period in America, the federation maintains.

In Albuquerque, police officers have killed 23 people in the last four years.

Memphis, the poorest big city in America, is a majority Black city. “We can only wonder if this is the reason why federal officials have ignored the excessive use of deadly force by Memphis police,” the federation says.

Memphis police killed 23 people in 2012 and 2013 – the largest number of people killed by police in this time period in America, the federation maintains.

Below is “The Body Count,” a report compiled by the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation listing the 23 people killed by Memphis police in 2012 and 2013.

The Body Count: Victims of Police Terror in Memphis, Tennessee, 2012 and 2013

Compiled by the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation

Police victims in 2012

1. Jeremy McCraven, 20, was shot to death in the back by police on Feb. 10, 2012, while allegedly driving a stolen car.

2. William Howlett, 41, died on March 10, 2012, after becoming “unresponsive” after police chased and arrested him for allegedly attacking his girlfriend.

3. Randy Green died in March, 2012. A family friend said that Green, who was blind, was pepper-sprayed to death by Memphis police officers on the campus of the University of Memphis, where Green was trying to use the library.

4. Dewayne Bailey, 38, was shot to death on May 8, 2012, after falling asleep in his car in a store parking lot. Witnesses disputed the claim by police that when they woke Bailey up, he got out of his car and fought with them, then got back in his car and started driving it.

5. Christian Freeman, 19, was shot to death on June 12, 2012, downtown on Beale Street. Police alleged that Freeman threatened them with a knife. Family members said Freeman had mental health problems and that police knew this because they had arrested him in April for disorderly conduct.

6. Hernandez Dowdy, 36, was shot to death on June 27, 2012. Police say Dowdy, who was Black, was a carjacking suspect whom they chased and that they killed him because they mistakenly thought he had a gun. The owner of the car, a white woman, had filed a false report.

7. Lorenzo Davis, 28, died on July 3, 2012, after police chased and arrested him for allegedly selling drugs. He collapsed after he was in custody. Doctors told his mother that he had severe head injuries, internal bleeding and a broken leg.

8. Delois Epps, 54, died on Aug. 26, 2012, in a car crash caused by a Memphis police officer. Witnesses said the officer was speeding at the time of the crash and did not use the flashing lights and the siren on his car as required by police regulations.

9. Makayla Ross, 13, died in a car crash with her mother, Delois Epps, on Aug. 26, 2012. (See above.) Officer Alex Beard, who caused the crash, was later fired, and in May 2013 was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide.

10. Justin Thompson, 15, was shot to death on Sept. 24, 2012, by off-duty police officer Terrance Shaw, who claimed Thompson tried to rob him. Shaw, who admitted that he knew Thompson prior to killing him, resigned when questioned about his relationship with the boy.

11. Charles Livingston, 32, was shot to death on Dec. 27, 2012. Police claimed they killed Livingston while he was fleeing from a McDonald’s restaurant, which he allegedly robbed, and that he pointed a gun at them while he was escaping. For over 30 years the MPD has been under a U.S. Supreme Court decision forbidding them from shooting “fleeing felons” like Livingston in the back.

Police victims in 2013

12. Donald Moore, 67, was shot to death on Jan. 11, 2013. Police claim that when they came to Moore’s home to serve him with a warrant for animal cruelty, he pointed a gun at them. However, when the cops came busting into the house, they broke down the door in the middle of the night and never announced they were police officers. Then Moore was fatally shot when he went for his firearm on a night stand.

13. Steven Askew, 24, was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2013, after falling asleep in his car waiting for his girlfriend to come home from work. Two police officers, who were called to the area on another matter, claimed that when they approached Askew’s car, he pointed a gun at them and they killed him. Askew was licensed to carry a gun. A video of the incident disputes the police version of events.

14. Horace Whiting, 63, was shot to death on March 10, 2013. Police claim Whiting had a shotgun when they confronted him in front of his house and that he fired at them when they told him to put the gun down. A neighbor of Whiting said Whiting never pointed the gun at anyone, and that he was on his own porch.

15. George Golden, 42, died on April 5, 2013, from injuries he sustained on March 27 after he was shot, kicked and beaten by two police officers in the parking lot of a Walmart store, where police claim Golden was shoplifting. A cell phone video taken by a bystander shows that one cop beat and kicked Golden while he was lying on the ground after being shot by another cop. Police made no reference to the fatal shooting in their final incident report, covering up the cause of death.

16. Daniel Brock, 47, was shot to death on April 10, 2013. Police claim that when they stopped Brock for an alleged incident of “road rage,” they shot him because they thought he had a gun as he was approaching them. Brock’s son said his father had a mental illness and was taking medication for it.

17. Amjustine Hunter, 28, was shot to death in his car on April 23, 2013, at a gas station. At least one witness disputed the police story that after they stopped Hunter for “suspicious” activity, police shot him when he tried to run them over with his car.

18. John Walker died on May 18, 2013, when an off-duty police officer hit the motorcycle Walker was riding while working as a traffic escort for a funeral.

19. Police claim an unidentified man shot himself to death on May 24, 2013, after he allegedly shot at police officers at an apartment complex. To date, no public report has been found verifying the story of the police.

20. Byron Kelley, 32, was shot to death on June 4, 2013, in Olive Branch, Miss., by Memphis police and DEA agents.

21. Johnny Taylor, 33, was shot to death on July 1, 2013. Police said they killed Taylor after he fired at them outside his home.

22. Marvin Amerson allegedly committed suicide on July 23, 2013, according to the MPD, after a standoff with officers following a bank robbery.

23. Aaron Dumas, 32, was killed on Oct. 15, 2013, when tactical officers of the Memphis police department threw tear gas chemicals into the house where they had chased Dumas, causing the house to catch on fire and burning him alive. Several neighbors had their homes damaged by the flames.

Contact the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation at P.O. Box 16382, Memphis, TN 38186-0382, 901-674-8430,, JoNina Ervin, acting chair, is responsible for this report.