One of the Memphis Police Department officers involved in the shooting death of 24-year-old Steven Askew has a less-than-stellar personnel file.
According to his personnel file, Officer Ned Aufdenkamp was already on the Memphis Police Department's radar for past performance problems and was submitted for the department's Early Intervention Program in 2012.
On Thursday, January 17th, Officer Aufdenkamp and Officer Matt Dyess responded to a loud music complaint on Tyrol Court in the Aspenwood Apartments. Although they did not hear any loud music, they did notice a man, Steven Askew, asleep in a Crown Victoria. When they approached, the two noticed a handgun in Askew's car. Aufdenkamp and Dyess then knocked on the windows and issued verbal commands to Askew, who, according to the officers, armed himself with his gun and pointed it at them. The two officers fired their weapons and Askew was killed. Officers Aufdenkamp and Dyess have both been relieved of duty with pay while the matter is investigated.
Among other things, Aufdenkamp's file reveals four workstation complaints against him and seven reports filed by Aufdenkamp of citizens resisting arrest — including five within a three month period and some that involved the use of chemical spray and physical force.
"The supervisors were bothered by the frequency and proximity of the resisting arrests, the use of chemical spray, and the resulting injuries to either Aufdenkamp or the suspect," the report reads. "Several complainants explained, in their own words, that they felt Aufdenkamp would intentionally ratchet up the level of pressure on the scene when it wasn't necessary."
On January 5th, 2012, Aufdenkamp was involved in a verbal altercation with a fellow officer on a traffic stop. According to the report, "the original conversation was with another officer, but Aufdenkamp interjected himself into the altercation and other officers had to stop between them to prevent it from escalating."
Later that month, the Internal Affairs Bureau received a complaint that Officer Aufdenkamp was "rude and disrespectful" during a traffic stop and had "approached with his gun out."
Aufdenkamp was then referred to the Early Intervention Program and placed on desk duty. In March of 2012, Aufdenkamp was ordered to attend Anger Management.
There are numerous other instances in which Aufdenkamp apparently did not follow protocol, failing to report when he bottomed out and disabled his patrol car in May of 2011, and leaving roll call to engage in what became a unreported domestic disturbance in September of that same year. In April of 2011, MPD received a complaint that Aufdenkamp stopped a violator and supposedly roughed him up, searched him for no reason, broke his rear windshield with a flashlight, and got on his loud speaker and said, "Speed up or I'm going to take your black-ass to jail."
"The supervisors would like Officer Aufdenkamp to learn to use his verbal skills more effectively," the report summary reads. "As a result of the Department Investigation, Aufdenkamp was temporarily assigned to the Precinct front desk because if he continues to generate complaints, he could be placed in an official non-enforcement status for up to six months, according to the rules of the Early Intervention Program."
On Thursday, January 17th, two Memphis Police officers responded to a loud music complaint on Tyrol Court in the Aspenwood Apartments. They didn't hear any loud music, but as they checked out the area, the officers noticed a man asleep in a Crown Victoria.
According to officers Ned Aufdenkamp and Matthew Dyess, they approached the vehicle to check on the man's welfare when they noticed a handgun inside the car. The officers say they knocked on the windows and gave "verbal commands" to the man. The officers said the man awoke and armed himself with the gun, pointing it at them.
Both officers fired their weapons and the man was killed. He was later identified as 24-year-old Steven Askew, and his parents have said that he was waiting in his car for his girlfriend, who lives at the apartment complex, to get off work.
A witness at the scene filmed a few moments after the shooting, and some who have viewed the video have said it appears that officers fired additional shots after Askew was killed. Memphis Police director Toney Armstrong held a press conference this afternoon and said that, after watching the video, he believes the officers did not fire the additional shots.
"I did not determine extra shots occurring," Armstrong said. "There is a loud noise [in the video], but it doesn't sound like gunfire."
Armstong said he came to that conclusion based on his experience using firearms in the commission of his job.
Armstrong would not say how many shots the officers fired because the investigation remains open. Officers Aufdenkamp and Dyess, both of Mt. Moriah Station, have been relieved of duty with pay while the matter is investigated. The MPD is asking for anyone with information that might aid in the investigation to contact the homicide bureau at 636-3300.
The Memphis City Council's parks committee voted to revisit councilman Myron Lowery's proposal to rename Forrest Park in honor of civil rights pioneer Ida B. Wells in two weeks, following a heated exchange between councilwoman Janis Fullilove and councilman Bill Boyd.
Boyd, chairman of the parks committee, began the meeting by extolling the "virtues" of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the namesake of the controversial city park, after first giving a disclaimer about his interest in the Civil War.
"I'm not a Civil War buff. As far as I'm concerned, the South lost. It's like when the [University of Memphis] Tigers lose, I don't read the paper," Boyd said.
Boyd talked about Forrest's history as a businessman and proclaimed that, with Forrest's long history of winning war battles, "he must have been a great general." Then Boyd went on to tell the council that Forrest "promoted progress for black people in this country after the war." He claimed that Forrest did not found the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) but rather was elected its leader later on. Boyd also claimed that the KKK was "more of a social club" in its early days and didn't start doing "bad and horrific things" until it reorganized around the time of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement.
Boyd's statements were peppered with audible scoffs and an exclamation of "Lord, have mercy" from Fullilove. At one point, Boyd looked at the councilwoman and said, "Keep making faces like you do, Ms. Fullilove," to which she responded, "Oh, I will."
After Boyd's history lesson on Forrest, he allowed Lee Millar of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to speak about the city's removal of a granite "Forrest Park" sign that his club raised more than $10,000 to have made and installed at the park's Union Avenue entrance. When Miller mentioned that the city had removed the marker, Fullilove clapped loudly. Miller then asked Fullilove to "hold it down."
Miller had copies of emails from former city parks director Cindy Buchanan that he believed showed proof that the city had approved the marker. But Maura Black Sullivan, deputy CAO for the city, told council members, "I know those emails look like it was approved, but it was not approved by the administration."
Sullivan told Miller he would have to gain approval from the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) under their sign ordinance, but Miller contended that the DMC only approves business signs, not signs for city parks. That issue will also be revisited in two weeks.
Boyd then adjourned the meeting, but Fullilove had apparently been trying to let Boyd know that she wanted to speak.
"Oh, you just ignored me!" Fullilove exclaimed.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Boyd said, opening the floor to Fullilove.
"I appreciate how you shared your personal opinion on how great Forrest was to black people," Fullilove said as she addressed Boyd. "But those are lies."
Boyd asked Fullilove to share her opinion with him in writing. "Oh, I will," Fullilove said.
The historic home at 1433 Union Avenue that's better known as the Nineteenth Century Club will be auctioned off to a member of the public in a sealed bid auction on Thursday, January 24th at noon.
Built in 1909 for Rowland J. Darnell, the Colonial Revival-style home is one of the last remaining historic structures along the commercial-heavy Union Avenue. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. At the time it was built, similar mansions lined the street, but most all of them have been demolished to make way for shopping centers, fast food restaurants, and gas stations.
Memphis Heritage is circulating a petition asking potential new owners to respect the home's history and save it from the wrecking ball. As it stands, there is little in the auction guidelines to prevent a new owner from demolishing the property. Memphis Heritage has also started a Facebook group called "Save the 19th Century Club."
Last night, the Memphis Regional Design Center's (MRDC) board of directors voted to reorganize the five-year-old, non-profit, urban design and planning organization. That reorganization meant letting go of founding director Chooch Pickard.
MRDC board chair Bill Ferguson said the board is looking to hire a new director with management and fundraising skills, rather than someone who is more interested in the urban design and planning aspect.
"It was suggested that we need someone to manage, not someone who went to school for urban design, and all the administrative paperwork drives them crazy," Ferguson said. "We need someone who likes to network and get partnerships, someone who is always thinking about fundraising."
People with an urban design background would continue to work for the organization, but the director would take on more of a managerial role.
The board approved a six-month contract for Jeff Sanford, former executive director of the Center City Commission (now known as the Downtown Memphis Commission), to serve as interim director. He will be tasked with keeping the organization running while heading a search for a permanent executive director.
As for Pickard, he's currently seeking out new opportunities in the fields of architecture, historic preservation or urban design.
"I've enjoyed my time there, and I learned a lot. I met great people, and I plan to stay involved with the community in whatever I do in the future," Pickard said.
The mission and vision of MRDC, to make Memphis the most livable city in country while increasing vitality and economic stability through urban design and planning, will remain the same. MRDC's accomplishments include the establishment of the Midtown Overlay (which protects Midtown's historic character in new development projects), the founding of the South Memphis Farmers Market and that community's renaissance, leading public discussions about the future of Overton Square, and the restoration of the Broad Avenue Arts District.
After several months of controversy, discussion, and amendment, the anti-wage theft ordinance sponsored by Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy was defeated by the Commission on its third reading Monday.
The vote, which took place before a full house in the auditorium of the Vasco Smith County Building, was 5 for and 7 against, both on the ordinance itself and on several amendments which Mulroy had offered as part of an effort to save the ordinance, which had been opposed by business interests and a variety of conservative activists.
One Commission opponent, Terry Roland, condemned what he said was “a bad ordinance” that could hurt “economic development,” further charging that organized labor, which supported the ordinance, “has got iNto the church business.”
Audience testimony Monday was about evenly divided between proponents of the ordinance, who included clergy members along with labor representatives and workers themselves, and the ad hoc alliance of opponents. On the commission itself, a switch by one Democratic commissioner who had previnously supported the ordinance, plus the absence of another supporter, doomed action on wage theft, at least for the immediate future. Mulroy said he might offer a version of the ordinance again “down the road.’
James Harvey was the Democrat who switched sides, voting with the Commission’s six Republicans, who voted Monday as a block after hearing comments from opponents, and Melvin Burgess, another Democrat, was the absentee. A disappointed Mulroy noted that one of several amendments he offered on Monday would have removed a provision for fines against employers found to be in violation of the ordinance, leaving only restitution for the injured employee as a remedy.
As Mulroy noted afterward, that amendment required only a majority for passage, and, if it had been adopted, the ordinance itself — which, as written, required 9 votes, or a super-majority — would have needed only a simple majority.
Mulroy was forthright about putting primary blame for the ordinance’s defeat on Harvey, who was equally forthright about admitting he had experienced a change of mind. That was due, said Harvey, a sometime independent businessman, to his taking “a broader view” of the ordinance, which opponents said would place undue hardships on local businesses. In addition to those who spokes against the ordinance at Monday’s meeting, the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce had issued a press release against the ordinance earlier in the day.
In vain did Mulroy and other supporters, both on the commission and in the audience, note that , as Commissioner Walter Bailey said, “only cheats” would be affected by the ordinance, not “honest businesses.”
Although the ordinance had gone through several revisions, many of them in response to requests from local businesses, in all of its forms it had targeted such offenses as failure of employers to follow through on promised wages and refusal to compensate employees for overtime.
A companion ordinance by Councilman Myron Lowery is still pending before the City Council.
Memphis Animal Services director James Rogers announced the lowest December euthanasia rate the shelter has experienced in years at the quarterly public meeting of the Memphis Animal Services Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday night.
There was a 59 percent kill rate for December 2012, up from percentages in the 70s and 80s over the past several years. In all of 2012, 8,859 animals were euthanized at the shelter versus numbers in the 11,000s in 2011 and 2010 and more than 13,000 animals in 2009.
Rodgers told meeting attendees about a new trap/neuter/release program for stray cats that is being run out of the shelter. Project Community Cat was launched in October with funding from the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Since its launch, 88 feral cats have been spayed or neutered and released back into the city.
Rodgers said he was dedicated to improving staffing levels per shift. He said he'd hired a groomer and a new shelter supervisor.
But despite showing some improvements, board members and members of the public pointed out areas in need of work. Dr. Stephen Tower, the board chair, mentioned that, since GPS had been installed in animal control officers' vehicles several months ago, the data was showing "a lot of room for improvement." There was some talk of having animal control dispatchers be retrained by the people who train county 911 dispatchers.
Board member Jeanne Chancellor said the shelter clinic needed to get up to speed. The vet clinic in the new animal shelter building is equipped with five spay and neuter tables that aren't all being utilized, and the X-ray machine does not work. Suggestions were made to have the city attorney's office look into problems with the X-Ray machine, and Chancellor suggested the shelter do a better job of getting out into the community and offering spay and neuter services. The spay and neuter area of the clinic was originally intended to be open-to-the-public for spay and neuter services.
Cindy Sanders, a shelter reform advocate who observes weekly court proceedings for those charged with animal cruelty and other animal-related violations, suggested the shelter should look into getting some use out of those spay and neuter tables by altering the animals of those charged with violation of the city's spay and neuter ordinance. Sanders and fellow reform advocate Jackie Johns have been raising money to have those pets spayed and neutered for some time, but they have been working with the local humane society for that service.
Chancellor also asked Rodgers to rethink a shelter policy that prevents vets from performing spay and neuter surgeries on heartworm positive dogs. Currently, pet owners must pay an extra $200 fee to re-claim their pet from the shelter if it is heartworm positive and unaltered. That fee, Chancellor said, prevents some people from being able to get their pets back. The procedure is riskier for heartworm positive dogs, and the decision not to alter heartworm positive dogs at the shelter began after a Rottweiler with heartworms died during the procedure. Rodgers said he would look into the possibility of making that change.
The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission recently sent a letter to City Hall asking Mayor A C Wharton's administration to restore funding to the Memphis Police Department's Blue Crush data-driven policing program. But a handful of Memphis City Council members say they were never made aware of any cuts to the MPD's budget for Blue Crush.
This morning, the Memphis City Council called on MPD director Toney Armstrong to explain the current state of Blue Crush and whether or not funding cuts had affected use of the successful crime-fighting program.
Armstrong said Blue Crush has remained strong, despite previous comments Armstrong made to media outlets over the past few days. But Armstrong did admit that Blue Crush wasn't being funded with traditional methods.
Armstrong said budget cuts have forced him trade comp time in lieu of payments for officers who work on Blue Crush details. The funds that could have been used to pay for Blue Crush had to be spent on necessary upgrades to equipment and fingerprinting technology and mandatory hepatitis shots for employees, Armstrong said.
"Yes, I have the funds in my budget [for Blue Crush] but there were other unfunded obligations we had to meet," Armstrong told the council.
Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland blamed the Wharton administration for denying the MPD a $2.3 million request for overtime pay for Blue Crush detail.
The police division had requested $245 million for its overall budget, which would have included the money for Blue Crush overtime pay. But the department was given $238 million instead. Strickland accused Wharton of "dismantling" Blue Crush, citing a document from the city's Zero Based Budgeting Committee that specifically says $2.3 million was cut from "overtime for Blue Crush" for the 2013 budget. Also, a December 2012 email from MPD deputy police chief Jim Harvey specifically stated that the "Blue Crush overtime budget was cut from all precincts."
Strickland's data also clearly showed a reduction in Blue Crush details from 2010 to 2012. There were 824 details from July to December 2010, 257 details from the same months in 2011, and 336 details from July to December 2012.
But city CAO George Little, representing the Wharton administration, argued that Blue Crush is not a line item, implying that Armstrong makes the decisions on how to use his budget to fund that program. The council has requested more information from Armstrong, and they will discuss the matter again in a few weeks.
Blue Crush was launched in 2006 by former MPD director Larry Godwin. It utilizes crime data to determine hotspots where police are deployed.
On Wednesday, January 2nd, Memphis Police officers found an unidentified body in the trunk of an abandoned 2011 Mazda Millennium that was parked on Goodhaven Drive near the airport area.
That victim, considered the first homicide of the year, has been identified as 22-year-old Brian Henderson. According to police reports, Henderson suffered from an apparent gunshot wound. He was deceased when officers discovered his body.
Although the victim counts as the first murder of the year for statistical purposes, investigators believe Henderson was killed on December 30th in the area of Airways and Shelby Drive. A person of interest is in custody, but no charges have been filed yet.
Last week, Mayor A C Wharton called for Club Crave on Beale Street to be demolished after it was shuttered for being a public nuisance. The closure came after a Christmas Eve shooting at the club, in which one man was killed.
Now an online petition, being pushed in an email newsletter from former Memphis City Schools board member Dr. Kenneth Whalum, is calling for saving the club's building at 380 Beale from the wrecking ball. The petition, which you can find here, isn't asking to save the club's business, however. They're only asking to save the building, which served as a movie theater long before it became the site of dance clubs with dangerous reputations (Before it was Club Crave, the building housed the Plush Club, which had its own share of gun violence issues).
The petition mentions that the building could be turned back into a movie theater that only shows local and independent films. As of press time, the petition had 64 signatures.
In 2012, more than 175 people were arrested at Club Crave for violations ranging from drug offenses to assault and robbery.