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36 Memphis Police And Deputies Hurt In Protests After Deadly Shooting

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings speaks to reporters early Thursday in Memphis, Tenn., after armed officers and an angry crowd faced off late Wednesday night after officers with the U.S. Marshals Service shot and killed a man while trying to take him into custody.
Adrian Sainz

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET

Thirty-six Memphis Police Department officers and sheriff's deputies were injured during a large protest Wednesday night, the police department said Thursday. The violence erupted after officers of the U.S. Marshals Service shot and killed Brandon Webber, 20.

The shooting occurred around 7 p.m. local time, as officers from the U.S. Marshals Service as part of the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force tried to take a man into custody. When the officers approached the man, law enforcement officials said, he was getting into his car in the Frayser community in northern Memphis, Tenn.

That man was Webber, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the case. The U.S. Marshals Service says he was wanted on "multiple felony warrants."

When the officers tried to stop Webber, "he reportedly rammed his vehicle into the officers' vehicles multiple times before exiting with a weapon," the TBI says.

"The officers fired striking and killing the individual," according to the TBI.

Residents began to gather in the street, looking for answers, reports local TV news Fox 13. Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer was among the first officials to identify the slain man publicly. She also said the local community has a reason to distrust the police.

"I was in Frayser tonight because Brandon Webber was shot 16-20 times in his family's front yard on the same day as the Pulse nightclub shooting anniversary," Sawyer said in a tweet, "and on the same day that the DA chose not to charge another police officer for murdering a civilian."

In another post, Sawyer said, "Don't judge Frayser without asking a community how it feels to mourn their youth over and over again."

The U.S. Marshals Service says it won't release the names of any deputy marshals involved in the shooting, saying it's a matter of policy not to take that step until all investigations into the incident are over.

The agency adds that it will conduct its own internal review after the state's inquiry is concluded.

"No officers were injured" in that initial encounter, according to the TBI. But the fatal shooting touched off outrage in Frayser, a predominantly black area. The U.S. Marshals asked Memphis police for help, and officers who responded initially came to assist with traffic.

As residents gathered in the street near where the shooting occurred, police formed a human wall. Officers repeatedly ordered people off the streets. Within hours, however, violence broke out and police deployed riot shields.

The situation escalated as people in the crowd began throwing rocks and bricks at officers, according to Memphis police. Around 10 p.m. local time, police began using tear gas against the protesters, according to the Daily Memphian.

Six wounded officers were taken to the hospital, Mayor Jim Strickland said, adding that at least two journalists were also hurt and that "multiple" police cars were vandalized.

"A concrete wall outside a business was torn down. The windows were broken out at fire station 31," Strickland said on Facebook.

"Let me be clear — the aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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