Four people are dead and three more were injured in the string of shootings that paralyzed Memphis, Tennessee, with fear on Wednesday night. The suspect, 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly, is a convicted felon who was freed from jail early. He was captured by police after crossing state lines and has been charged with first-degree murder.
Kelly reportedly claimed he wouldn’t be going back to jail and livestreamed his alleged crimes on Facebook. The videos have since been taken down.
Police indicated that the 19-year-old began his violent spree at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, around which time a 24-year-old gunshot victim was found dead in his driveway in the 3100 block of Lyndale Avenue.
At 4:38 p.m., police responded to another shooting, this time in the 900 block of South Parkway East. A man was found with multiple gunshot wounds dead inside his car. Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis indicated that Kelly had pulled up next to the victim in a grey vehicle, shot him, and fled.
Minutes later, Kelly allegedly shot a woman in the leg on Norris Road near Interstate 240. The injured woman was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive. Kelly is said to have again fled the scene, but this time in a dark sedan.
During the shootings, which continued well after the injured woman was rushed to hospital, police issued multiple warnings, telling people to “shelter in place.” Public bus service was suspended, people were instructed to stay in their homes, and a minor-league baseball game was placed on lockdown.
Around 6 p.m., Kelly allegedly walked into an AutoZone store, took aim at an unsuspecting man and pulled the trigger. On his livestream, he allegedly said, “Check this s*** out. I pull up and do this s*** … What do those n***** say? No faking? No faking. You heard me, this s*** for real.”
The AutoZone victim survived, but was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
After the AutoZone shooting, the Memphis Police Department launched a citywide manhunt and asked additional partner agencies for help in locating Kelly.
Just after 7 p.m., Kelly allegedly killed a woman, stealing her grey Toyota SUV. Minutes later, he allegedly shot a man, who was subsequently taken to the hospital.
According to officials, Kelly soon traded in his stolen vehicle for a new ride. He allegedly stole a Dodge Challenger in Southaven, Mississippi.
Police identified the stolen vehicle on Interstate 55 and gave chase. The resulting high-speed pursuit ended when Kelly wrecked the stolen vehicle.
The Shelby County sheriff’s office and the MPD took Kelly into custody without incident near Ivan Road and Hodges Road, where he had crashed.
MPD lifted the shelter-in-place warning around 9:30 p.m.
In February 2020, Kelly was charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, using a firearm to commit a dangerous felony, and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon. His attempted murder charge was dismissed and he pled guilty to aggravated assault, receiving a three-year sentence in April 2021.
Despite the three-year sentence, he was released 11 months later in March.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said, “If Mr. Kelly served his full 3-year sentence, he would still be in prison today and 4 of our fellow citizens would still be alive. … Our judicial system is too often a revolving door. A citizen emailed me today: ‘Until/unless there are real consequences for criminal behavior, it will continue.’ I agree 100%.”
Former Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, defeated and replaced by Democrat Steve Mulroy in August, recently suggested that Memphis, Tennessee, would soon look like San Francisco, which saw a marked spike in violent crimes over the past few years under Democratic district attorneys. “The answer to our crime problem is not simply releasing people from prison.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, Mulroy said, “People are frightened, people are angry. In times like this, it’s sometimes hard for people to know what to do.”
This violent sequence of events took place only days after 38-year-old Cleotha Abston was charged in connection with the Friday abduction and murder of Eliza Fletcher in Memphis, which Mulroy termed “an isolated attack.”
Suspect accused of driving around Memphis shooting at people has been taken into custody