Protests Continue For Man Shot As He Attacked Police With Car

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Some 300 people gathered on Friday evening for a candle-light vigil in the Memphis neighborhood where a young black man was shot dead by federal authorities as residents remained on edge following violent demonstrations earlier this week.

Brandon Webber, a 20-year-old father of two, was shot and killed on Wednesday by U.S. Marshals seeking to arrest him on a warrant for aggravated assault and other charges, touching off clashes between police and protesters on the streets of Memphis that left 36 officers injured..

As darkness fell on Friday, family members of Webber gathered with supporters and family members clutching candles and green, black and white balloons. One woman, believed to be related to Webber, was seen leaving the gathering in tears.

Law enforcement appeared to keep their distance from the event, although a police helicopter hovered over the scene earlier in the day.

Thursday night passed quietly amid a heavy police presence in the predominantly black, working-class area of Frayser, but some locals feared there was more trouble brewing.

“It’s going to get worse,” said Darrel Johnson, an unemployed 26-year-old as he ate in a restaurant near where Webber was gunned down. “It’s going to be a tough weekend, but I really want it to be quiet and peaceful.”

Up the street from the shooting site, a few customers wandered in and out of the Sammen Food Market convenience store.

“I don’t think we are done,” said a 32-year-old hotel worker who gave his name as Michael, when asked if there would be more demonstrations to protest at Webber’s killing.

Did police do the correct thing?

It was a different scene late Thursday, when scores of young black men gathered at sunset, sitting on and inside cars as rap music boomed from stereos and some drank beer, smoked cigarillos and talked about their frustration with law enforcement.

“The police need to come out here and show the people in the community that they are for us,” a local pastor, Kalvin Heard, said on Friday, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of his ministry, “Let’s Make God Great Again.”

Heard, 47, who said he once sold drugs and robbed victims in this neighborhood, was setting up a speaker system to preach and pray throughout the day.

“I choose life,” he said as he checked the generator in the back of his pick-up truck.

But on Friday it was not the same scene in Memphis when hundreds rioted and sent around two dozen police officers to the hospital.

The Memphis community where a young black man was slain this week by federal agents as they tried to arrest him remained tense after a night of violent protests, but community activists and a mayoral candidate hoped the weekend would be calm.

The man shot, Brandon Webber, 20, was wanted in the shooting of a man in Mississippi earlier this month, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.

At least two dozen police officers were injured in street demonstrations on Wednesday night that erupted after Webber was killed by members of a federal fugitive task force seeking to take him into custody.

As darkness fell on Thursday, police helicopters flew over the area and squad cars patrolled the neighborhood.

Hunter Demster, a longtime Memphis resident and community activist, said he was on the scene of the shooting within an hour of it happening.

“I hate that this happened, both sides, the whole community, needs to take a long look at what they’re doing,” said Demster.

Demster, who is black, is a member of the Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens. He said the neighborhood’s reaction “didn’t happen in a vacuum” but is part of a continuum of friction with police.

Terrence Boyce, 30, who is running to be the next mayor of Memphis, a predominantly black city, said the community and the police “need to continue to figure out how we are going to bridge the gap between the police officers and the community.”

“I believe it can happen,” he added.

Boyce said he hoped all will be peaceful, but added, “You’re hearing from people who feel like they’re being heard.”

The tensions in Memphis, where hundreds of protesters took to the streets after Webber’s death, evoked memories of a string of sometimes violent protests against police brutality that broke out in other U.S. cities in recent years.

Those clashes, notably the many days of protests after an unarmed black man was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, helped give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Webber was shot after he rammed his car into vehicles driven by federal agents at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the working-class neighborhood of Frayser, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

He was reportedly carrying a weapon when he got out of his vehicle, the bureau said, without elaborating.

The district attorney for DeSoto County, Mississippi, where Webber was suspected of shooting a man to steal his car, defended the federal marshals’ actions.

“This was a violent felon who did not obviously want to go to jail,” DeSoto County prosecutor John Champion told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “It’s obvious that he had no appreciation for the value of human life.”

Champion said Webber shot his victim five times point blank after the two men had taken the car on a test drive, then drove off in the stolen vehicle.

The victim, a resident of Hernando, remains hospitalized.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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