Memphis sees record-setting 214th homicide of the year

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 6:23 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — With its latest apparent shooting death, Memphis hit 214 homicides this year, a record for this city beset by gang activity and gun crime, police said Friday.

The body of the record-setting victim was found Friday by a co-worker who went to check on a colleague, Memphis police spokesman Louis Brownlee said. The body had a gunshot wound, and a preliminary investigation shows it may have been the result of a home invasion, he said.

One person is in custody. Police are still investigating.

Memphis has now surpassed the previous record of 213 homicides, set in 1993. The closest Memphis had been to that number was in 1995, when there were 195 homicides. Last year, Memphis saw 161 homicides.

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings issued a statement after the record-tying homicide was announced earlier Friday, saying it is "horrible news." He said 173 of the homicides were committed with a firearm, and nearly half of the 214 victims knew their assailants.

"These are family members, friends, neighbors, and known associates that were senselessly killed by someone that they loved or trusted," Rallings said.

Rallings was named interim police chief in January, replacing Toney Armstrong, who retired. Rallings was elevated to the permanent police director job by Mayor Jim Strickland in August.

Seventy-two of this year's homicides involved gang members, Rallings said.

In July, Rallings challenged the city to go 30 days without a killing. That didn't last a day, with a man fatally shot hours after Rallings' plea.

Rallings said he is asking the faith-based community to "reach out and open their doors and encourage reasonable conflict resolution practices." He encouraged residents to say no to guns, gangs, drugs and violence.

"This is Memphis; we are a resilient city and a strong community," Rallings said. "We must get back to loving and working with our families and neighbors to reduce homicides and crime in general."

One of the poorest big cities in the nation, Memphis has tried several strategies to fix its violent crime problem, from gun buy-backs to work training programs to increased efforts at community policing.

It also has seen increased tensions between the police and the black community, after last year's fatal shooting of Darrius Stewart, a 19-year-old black man, by a white police officer during a fight that began when the officer tried to arrest Stewart on an outstanding warrant at a traffic stop.

In October, the Justice Department launched a comprehensive review of the Memphis Police Department after residents criticized the department's use of deadly force and its treatment of the black community.

Strickland, Memphis' mayor, said the city is actively working to recruit and train more police officers. He has called for state laws that provide stiffer penalties for violent crime offenders.

"I'm angry. I'm mad. I'm furious for our city," Strickland said in a statement. "That's why I want to say this: If you are a criminal, if you intend to do harm, Michael Rallings and our police department are coming after you."