First Victim in Memphis Shooting Spree Had Personal Connection to Suspect

·4 min read
memphis-shooting - Credit: Mark Weber/Daily Memphian via AP
memphis-shooting - Credit: Mark Weber/Daily Memphian via AP

The shooter who terrorized the city of Memphis on Wednesday in a killing spree began by killing someone he knew, according to court records. Ezekiel Kelly, 19, was arrested around 9 p.m., suspected of killing four people and injuring three others across eight crime scenes in the Memphis area. The rampage, part of which was streamed live on Facebook, began just after midnight on Wednesday and continued into the late evening hours. The killings appeared random, but according to an affidavit, it seems at least the first victim knew Kelly.

According to police, officers responded to the first shooting at 12:56 a.m. on Wednesday, where a 24-year-old man was found shot in a driveway and pronounced dead at the scene. An affidavit said the victim had been there visiting a friend with four other friends, when Kelly pulled him aside. “During the conversation Kelly drew his black handgun and discharge[d] several shots in the direction of [the victim] and Kelly shot [him] in the head with a black colored handgun,” the document said. “The witnesses are friends of both Kelly and [the victim].” (Rolling Stone has chosen to omit the victim’s name until the family can be reached.) According to court records, Kelly currently faces just one count of first-degree murder so far with an arraignment scheduled for Friday.

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Police then responded to three more crime scenes before getting a tip that the suspect was live-streaming himself. The second report of a shooting came late in the afternoon, around 4:30 p.m., when police found a man dead in a car in another part of the city, shot multiple times. Minutes later, a woman was shot in the leg, but she survived.

At about 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Kelly live-streamed himself walking into an AutoZone and firing a handgun at a man walking through the store. “Check this shit out. I pull up and do shit,” he said before getting out of his car and going inside. “What those n—s say? No fakin’, no fakin’. You heard me, this shit’s for real.” The victim at AutoZone was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Minutes after that, the police received word that the suspect was on Facebook Live, threatening to harm people, Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis said during the Thursday press conference.

Police said Kelly then shot and killed a woman and stole her gray SUV. The carjacking was reported at 7:23 p.m. One minute later, police were called to another shooting where a man was non-critically injured.

By 8 p.m., a reporter from the local NBC affilate was fighting back tears while telling viewers to stay inside. “Memphis is tired right now,” Joyce Peterson of news station WMC said. “I’m with you all….The Eliza Fletcher kidnapping and abduction and murder, the other crimes we’ve had this year leading up to this. It’s difficult right now.” Around the same time, the police posted an alert for people to be on the lookout for a Black man in a blue or gray vehicle “responsible for multiple shootings.”

Just before 9 p.m., police say Kelly killed a woman with multiple gunshots, then carjacked another person — over the state border, in Mississippi — leaving the driver unharmed. Memphis Police spotted Kelly in the allegedly stolen car minutes later, and arrested him after a high-speed chase.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland also spoke at the press conference, condeming the recent wave of violence in the city, which was shaken in recent days by the abduction and murder of jogger Eliza Fletcher. “This is no way for us to live and it is not acceptable.” he said. “The people of our city were confronted with the type of violence no one should have to face.”

Kelly had been released from prison in March after serving 11 months of a three-year sentence. He had initially been charged in 2020 with attempted first-degree murder, possession of a firearm and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault. “If Mr. Kelly served his full three-year sentence, he would still be in prison today and four of our fellow citizens would still be alive,” the mayor said.

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