Kevin Grills’ co-workers and fellow Yellow Cab taxi drivers were shaken last month when they learned Grills, 50, was shot in the back several times and killed while in his cab near Downtown Memphis.
A Yellow Cab drives south on Main Street. Yellow Cab employees recently raised money to help get criminals off the streets after cab driver Kevin Grills was murdered on the job.
(Photos: Lance Murphey)
One employee described them all as dumbfounded when it happened, and then shell-shocked in the days afterwards. Yellow Cab president Ham Smythe IV got the call late at night on the evening of the tragedy, and he went to Grills’ home to carry the awful news and to be with family members.
A man identified as Grills’ brother told one TV news crew that Grills was trying to make the best of a bad economy, when opportunities for construction work grew scarce, by working late nights as a cabbie.
The whole company was grieving after the tragedy, said director of sales and marketing Deborah Crawford. But that quickly turned into a question: “Is there something we can do?”
It turns out there was.
“Ham got called that night when he discovered what happened,” Crawford said. “Ham went to Kevin’s house to tell his family. And of course the whole company was feeling so sorry for them.”
Grills’ coworkers soon began raising money. It didn’t take long for $500 to be collected. When Smythe saw the amount, he decided to match it.
After that, Smythe called E. Winslow “Buddy” Chapman, the executive director of CrimeStoppers of Memphis and Shelby County. An in-cab video reportedly showed the crime, which helped investigators catch a suspect, but a tip also was called in to CrimeStoppers, a group with a simple mission.
So in many ways, the donation of $1,000 by Yellow Cab and its drivers and employees to CrimeStoppers in Grills’ memory was an easy decision.
“Safety is the No. 1 issue with any job,” said Eddie Henderson, as he drives a yellow cab on South Main Street in Downtown.
Crawford said it was born out of the fact the company thinks CrimeStoppers “does such good work in Memphis.”
“We matched money raised by our drivers and our employees,” Smythe said. “We wanted to honor CrimeStoppers for all the good work the organization does in our community to help solve crimes.”
The group helps police capture criminals by offering cash rewards with the promise of anonymity to anyone with information that helps crimes get solved. It was founded in 1981, and over three decades it has helped solve on average nearly two felony crimes – per day.
The CrimeStoppers tipline, 528-CASH, is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I can promise that the funds raised by Mr. Grills’ fellow workers and the taxi company will be used to help chase down criminals in our community and get them off the street,” Chapman said.
Grills is survived by his wife Yolanda, stepdaughter Fernada Corral, as well as four brothers and two sisters.