Vince Higgins, Communications Director for the D.A.'s office, has confirmed the investigation is still underway and no determination has been made over whether criminal charges will be filed.
"The fatal shooting of Stephen Askew remains an open investigation and is under review by the D.A.'s Office," Higgins responded via email today.
Howard Manis, attorney for the Askew family, was especially surprised to receive the MPD's statement about the allegedly closed case, as his open records requests had been denied citing an ongoing investigation.
"I said, something's inconsistent here. Either you have an open investigation or you don't have an open investigation. It seems logical [that the case would not yet be closed] because we haven't even gotten the autopsy back yet," says Manis. "You don't close a homicide investigation without an autopsy."
The MPD's February 15th press release also stated that the officers, who had been suspended pending an investigation, had been approved to return to duty while an internal investigation would be carried out.
"It begs the question, who, if anybody, told the police that the District Attorney wasn't prosecuting?" says Manis. "And what in the world are they doing announcing that as support for putting these officers back on the force if there's an investigation of these officers still pending?"
On January 17th, Officers Aufdenkamp and Dyess found Askew asleep in his car, with his legally owned handgun next to him. When the officers approached the vehicle, they allege Askew pointed his gun at them, and the officers then shot and killed Askew with their duty weapons.
On January 30th, we reported that Aufdenkamp's personnel file revealed a history of aggression that led the MPD to submit him to the department's Early Intervention Program in 2012.
"If the Memphis Police Department has a policy that we can reinstate these guys before the District Attorney's office has cleared them and before they've cleared an internal investigation, then that's scary as a citizen, knowing that's the policy of our police department," Manis says.
The Memphis Police Department could not be reached for comment.
The city of Memphis has officially approved a demonstration by the Loyal White Knights, better known as the Ku Klux Klan, to be held on March 30th.
City officials and police director Toney Armstrong have been discussing the issue for days, and the permit was finally approved after Armstrong gave the okay to proceed.
“Based on director Armstrong’s decision, the permits office took appropriate steps earlier today to issue the permit and contact the applicant,” said city attorney Herman Morris. “We have known from the beginning that denying this application would result in a legal fight on constitutionality that would be long, divisive, expensive, and that would unnecessarily prolong the decision. We have all, however, been very attune to director Armstrong’s review given the critical role the Memphis Police Department will play in a proposed demonstration.”
The KKK submitted their application to demonstrate following the Memphis City Council's decision to change the name of Forrest Park and other city parks named with Confederate themes.
"My primary focus is the safety of the public and all involved,” Armstrong said. “It will be in all of our best interest to have a demonstration where we are able to work with this group in setting the do’s and don’ts. Right now, my team has a strategy that will ensure everyone’s safety. What we absolutely do not want is some unplanned, spontaneous demonstration where my team has not been involved in planning and set-up.”
Memphis Police DUI Officer Anthony Morris is used to saving lives by getting drunk drivers off city streets. But early Friday morning, he saved a life in a much more direct way.
Morris was on patrol around 2 a.m. near American Way and Cherry when he noticed that a woman standing at the driver's side rear door of a Dodge Charger was flagging him down. As he approached the Charger, he noticed another woman lying in the backseat. That woman was having contractions and going into labor.
Morris called the police communications dispatch and began assisting the pregnant woman with delivery. But as the child emerged, Morris noticed it wasn't breathing because the umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck. The MPD dispatch and Memphis Fire Department dispatch personnel gave Morris instructions for safely unwrapping the cord and helping the child breathe.
Fire department officials arrived on the scene shortly after and transported the mom and child to Methodist Germantown. The MPD reports that the mother and child are doing just fine.
Morris, who has been with the MPD since 1994, will be nominated for the MPD's Lifesaving Award.
Memphis Police officer Alex Beard has been terminated from the department following an administrative hearing yesterday concerning a fatal crash in which Beard's police cruiser collided with another vehicle on Crump last August.
On August 26th, 23-year-old Beard was traveling in non-emergency mode eastbound on Crump. A 1996 Mercury Mystique was traveling down Crump in the opposite direction. When the driver of the Mystique was making a turn to go south on Walnut Road, Beard's car collided with it. The Mystique then struck a pole on the south side of Crump.
The driver of that vehicle was transported to the Regional Medical Center in critical condition, but he was later released. His passengers, 54-year-old Delores Epps and 13-year-old Mackala Epps, died at the scene.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigated the crash and sent their findings to the District Attorney's Office. The administrative hearing was conducted yesterday, and Beard was charged with failure to comply with department regulations relating to response to call, personal conduct, and damage to motor vehicle. He was terminated. Beard had been employed by the MPD since October 2010.
Memphis Police officers Ned Aufdenkamp and Matthew Dyess have been approved to return to duty in a non-enforcement capacity after the Attorney General's office determined that no criminal charges will be filed against them for their role in the shooting death of a man who had been sleeping in his car at an apartment complex. The Memphis Police Department is working on its administrative investigation.
Aufdenkamp and Dyess responded to a loud music complaint at the apartment complex near Knight Arnold on the night of January 17th. When they were unable to locate the source of the music, the officers began patrolling the parking lot. They found 24-year-old Steven Askew asleep in his Crown Victoria, and the officers observed a gun inside the car.
The officers knocked on the windows, and when Askew noticed their presence, he allegedly picked up his gun and pointed it at the officers. Both officers then shot Askew with their duty weapons. A witness caught part of the incident on video, and some believe the officers fired additional shots into the car after Askew was already deceased. But MPD director Toney Armstrong said, based on his observations of the video, that no extra gunshots were fired.
Both officers were relieved of duty without pay following the incident, but they are now being allowed to return to work.
Aufdenkamp is currently assigned to the Mt. Moriah Station and has been employed by the MPD since July of 2007. Dyess is also assigned to the Mt. Moriah Station and has been employed by the MPD since June of 2010.
Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services was awarded a $71,630 grant from PetSmart Charities to cover the cost of spay/neuter surgeries for 1,085 pets living in the 38105 zip code area. That encompasses the some of central downtown and all of north downtown.
People living in that area are encouraged to pay what they can for surgery, but 95 percent of total surgery costs are being covered by the grant. The offer stands through December 14th.
It is illegal to own a cat or dog that is older than six months in the city of Memphis that has not been spayed or neutered, unless the pet owner has a special exception from the city.
Appointments are required and can be made by calling (901) 324-3202. Clients must show proof of residency in the targeted ZIP code (38105) upon time of appointment, including one of the following: a driver’s license, utility bill, property rental lease, landline telephone bill, property tax bill, or bank statement.
Thirty-five teams have signed on to dream up ideas for vacant and abandoned lots and properties in the South Main area as part of the Downtown Memphis Commission's South Main Design Challenge.
The teams are tasked with designing new uses for the following spaces: the parking lot at Main and Huling, the former Ambassador Hotel, a vacant space at Main and Talbot, the old Russell Hardware building, the Army/Navy Park, the buffalo mural lot near the Memphis College of Art's gallery, and the Lyric Panel Lot near The Arcade. The team with the overall winning concept will be awarded $1,000.
Their ideas will be revealed during Art Trolley Tour nights throughout late winter and early spring. The first unveil will feature ideas for the Huling lot and the Ambassador Hotel and will be held on Friday, Feb. 22nd at the American Institute of Architects (515 S. Main) from 6 to 9 p.m.
For more on the South Main Design Challenge, read this Flyer article.
Representatives from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) hosted a public meeting at the Memphis Police Department's (MPD) Crump Station Monday evening to gather comments and concerns as it considers whether or not to reaccredit the department. MPD is seeking reaccreditation for another three years. It was last accredited in 2010.
Outside the station, a small group of protesters from the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation held signs protesting recent MPD-involved shooting deaths, such as the deaths of 24-year-old Steven Askew and 67-year-old Donald Moore, both killed this year by officers who claimed guns were pointed at them by the victims.
The federation submitted its public comment in the form of an eight-page emailed letter that includes a section titled "Body Count," which details 13 deaths that occurred either through shootings by officers or while suspects were being held in police care. They are asking CALEA to deny MPD's reaccreditation citing "several incidents of deadly force against people of color, unprofessional conduct, and corruption within the Memphis Police Department," according to a press release from the group.
Since those comments were submitted before the meeting, federation members did not speak at the public forum. They did offer comments to media outside the station.
"We're just asking for democracy and fairness," said Rochelle Carraway, addressing the issue of whether or not the MPD should receive reaccreditation. "If you don't have to kill, don't. It's gotten out of hand."
Lorenzo Ervin agreed: "We just want [CALEA] to be as thorough as possible. We don't want the [the MPD] to be legitimized by them."
Inside the meeting, some public comments echoed those of the protesters outside. Robert Gurley said he'd like to see a little more professionalism within the department, and Kenneth Van Buren, who often organizes direct actions against what he sees as injustices in city government, said he has asked the Justice Department to send a task force to Memphis to investigate the MPD.
"I've tried to talk to the [police] director, and my calls have gone unanswered," Van Buren said. He said he's unhappy about recent shootings. He also believes the MPD is guilty of evidence tampering, and he wants all officers to have to submit to regular random drug screenings.
But the majority of comments made inside the meeting were overwhelmingly positive. Dwight Montgomery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, did mention that "on one end of the scale, you have a small group of police officers who have acted inappropriately," referring to officers involved in recent shooting deaths. But he praised the department as a whole for dealing with what he called "major crime problems happening every weekend in certain neighborhoods."
Memphian Christopher Edwards agreed: "The police officers who serve us have taken on the responsibility of a job that very few men and women would agree to take. We need to be objective when looking at them."
"I am most grateful and thankful that these people come to work everyday," said commenter Jennifer Bush. "There have been isolated incidents and tragedies, but these could have happened in many other places."
Public comments are still being accepted by email, phone, and snail mail. Direct comments to CALEA at email@example.com, call (703) 352-4225, or mail a letter to the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, 13575 Healthcote Blvd., Suite 320, Gainesville, VA 20155.