VOL. 130 | NO. 178 | Monday, September 14, 2015
Witnesses Testify About Officer's Fatal Shooting in Memphis
ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A witness to the fatal shooting of a Memphis policeman said Friday that he saw the suspect shoot the officer during a struggle as the pair walked toward a squad car, and heard six shots altogether.
Marquis Wright was one of two men who testified at a hearing for 29-year-old Tremaine Wilbourn, who is being held on a first-degree murder charge in the Aug. 1 death of Officer Sean Bolton, 33.
Wright said he was standing outside a house in southeast Memphis when he saw an officer in a squad car drive up to a burgundy Mercedes Benz that was parked on the street. Wright said the driver ran away once the officer shined his car's spotlight on the Mercedes. But he said the officer pulled the passenger out and led him toward a squad car. Wright identified the passenger as Wilbourn.
Bolton was holding one of Wilbourn's arms behind Wilbourn's back as they walked to the driver's side of the squad car, Wright testified. As they walked, Wilbourn yelled at Wright to start taking video, but Wright said he didn't shoot any video.
"They were tussling," Wright said.
Wright testified that he saw Wilbourn shoot Bolton once, then Wright ran inside the house. Wright said he heard a total of six shots.
Another witness, Christopher Lanier, testified he heard about nine shots as he watched television inside his house. When he walked outside, he saw Bolton lying face down in the street, with his gun still strapped in his holster, Lanier said.
Lanier said he then used Bolton's radio to call the police.
"I told them we were trying to call on the phone but all the phone lines were busy," Lanier said of neighbors' attempts to call 911.
Police have said Bolton interrupted a drug deal in the Mercedes Benz in which Wilbourn was the passenger. Police say the men got into a struggle before Wilbourn drew a gun, shot Bolton and fled. Wilbourn turned himself in to U.S. Marshals after an intense two-day manhunt.
Wilbourn's sister, Callie Watkins, has told The Associated Press that her brother was trying to defend himself from an aggressive officer who had him in a hold. One of Wilbourn's public defenders, Kindle Nance, told the judge that Wilbourn should be held on second-degree murder or manslaughter.
"There has been no proof that this was a premeditated act," Nance said.
Judge Silvio R. Lucchesi disagreed. He ordered Wilbourn held on a first-degree murder charge pending a grand jury indictment. Wilbourn is jailed, with bond set at $10 million.
Bolton, who was white, was the third Memphis officer to be fatally shot in slightly more than four years. Wilbourn is black.
At the time of the shooting, Wilbourn was on probation for an armed bank robbery. Wilbourn was sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison and released on probation in July 2014. He was ordered to undergo mental health treatment July 7, according to court documents. It's not clear whether he was ever evaluated.
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