Romantix, an adult bookstore at 2947 Lamar, was robbed at 5:55 p.m. on Tuesday, and the suspect remains on the loose.
The suspect reportedly grabbed the cashier and took an undisclosed amount of cash from the drawer. He then fled on foot.
The Memphis Police Department released a video of the suspect today, and they're asking for the public's help in identifying him. Anyone with information should call 528-CASH.
Memphis Police officer Sean Fritz, 36, was charged with two counts of computer fraud and one count of making false statements to a federal agency after he allegedly accessed the FBI's National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) database for non-law enforcement purposes.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Fritz used the database to help a confidential informant for illegal purposes. But Fritz denied accessing the NCIC database for illegal purposes when he was interviewed by the FBI. He was arrested on Tuesday (January 10th), and he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of computer fraud and making false statements.
"As the indictment alleges, Officer Fritz abused his position of trust as a law enforcement officer by
violating the very laws he swore to uphold and defend as a Memphis Police Department officer,” stated
United States Attorney Edward L. Stanton, III in a press release on Wednesday.
At 8:24 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Memphis Police responded to a wounding call at 8158 Forrest Park North. The victim, 28-year-old Gus Crittle, was lying on the sidewalk and he was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead after an ambulance arrived on the scene.
The case has been referred to the MPD's homicide bureau, and they're still seeking Crittle's killer. Anyone with information is encouraged to call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH. All tips are anonymous. Tips leading to an arrest may be eligible for up to $1,000.
Tips may also be submitted here or by texting AWARD to 274637 (CRIMES).
According to an obituary in the South Reporter, Crittle, a native of Holly Springs, Mississippi, was an HVAC technician with the Trinity Lakes Apartment Complex in Memphis. He left behind a wife and four children.
Memphis Police officer Tramaine Johnson learned a valuable lesson the hard way on Saturday: Smoking pot inside a moving vehicle is probably not a good idea ... especially when you're a police officer.
Johnson was in Nashville when a Tennessee State University campus cop pulled over the 1998 Ford van he was riding in with several other passengers. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer smelled marijuana. After calling for back-up, the police found 9.2 grams of marijuana inside the vehicle. Johnson was also carrying his MPD-issued gun. All occupants of the van were arrested.
Johnson has been charged with possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia. He's been relieved of duty from the MPD pending an investigation. Johnson has worked at Midtown's Union Station since 2009.
Marta Mote, the woman arrested on Monday in connection with the weekend shooting of Memphis Police officer Norman Benjamin, was released from Jail East today after authorities determined the charges against her weren't substantiated. All pending charges against Mote are dropped.
"At this point in this investigation my office has determined that the charges against Ms. Mote weren't sufficiently substantiated," said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. "It is always the goal of this office and [the Memphis Police Department] to pursue the truth and to prosecute cases based on factual evidence."
On Saturday, Benjamin was transported to the Med after sustaining a gunshot would. He remains there in stable condition. Benjamin originally reported that he'd been shot by a Hispanic man, but it was later determined that he gave a false police report. Authorities then turned their suspicion to Mote, who was originally charged with attempted second-degree murder. Police have since said they believe Benjamin has some sort of relationship with Mote and/or her teenage niece. At press time, police are offering no other explanation on who shot Benjamin.
John Coats, president of the Memphis Rotary Club, was arrested for a DUI at a Midtown Walgreens just after midnight Saturday morning.
According to the affidavit, Memphis police responded to a DUI call after the Walgreens manager reported that a man was sleeping in the driver's seat of a car parked in the lot. When officers arrived, Coats was revving the car's accelerator at a high RPM, and it appeared he'd fallen asleep with his foot fully depressing the pedal.
Coats initially refused to step out of the vehicle after he was awakened. But after repeated requests, he stepped out and nearly fell. Officers had to hold him up, and they reported smelling a strong presence of alcohol and noticed he had bloodshot eyes.
When asked if he'd been drinking, he replied that he had, and he made repeated requests to call Mayor A C Wharton. When asked to perform a field sobriety test, Coats replied "I am gonna fail. Just book me." Coats refused a blood alcohol test. He was then arrested and charged with DUI, public intoxication, and reckless driving.
The Memphis Rotary Club is currently conducting an evaluation of Memphis Animal Services.
Memphis Police need help locating two people suspected of burglarizing the Department of Safety office at 3200 E. Shelby Dr. on Friday, July 22nd around 7 a.m.
In the still-unsolved burglary, video surveillance shows two suspects wearing dark clothing, masks, and gloves entering the office. Responding officers discovered broken glass and a pry mark on the doors. Cash was taken from the safe. Anyone with information on this incident is advised to call CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH.
Here's a still shot from the surveillance video. Watch the whole video here.
Detective James Bishof of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) was taken into custody on Thursday and charged with aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery by an authority figure, and official oppression.
The charges stem from an incident on July 11th involving a 22-year-old female who showed up at the SCSO detective unit asking for help with a domestic assault case. Bishof reportedly told the victim he'd helped another female defendant in a similar situation and that he'd be able to help her as well.
Bishof then allegedly took the woman into a bathroom on the ninth floor of 201 Poplar and photographed private areas of her body. He reportedly told the woman that he had a better camera at home and he'd like to come by her house later that day to take more pictures. At the victim's home, Bishof allegedly asked her to take off her clothes, so he could photograph her private areas again. The woman claims Bishof made inappropriate sexual comments while touching her.
After he left, the woman complained to her roommate, and the roommate told her father about the situation. The father contacted the sheriff's office, and Bishof was relieved of duty on July 13th pending an internal investigation. He was taken into custody on July 28th.
The Memphis Police Department is still searching for four men who robbed the Corner Grocery Store on E.H. Crump Blvd. on Tuesday, July 12th. "Crime of the week" status is assigned when the department needs help from the public in making an arrest.
The robbery happened at 9:20 p.m. and involved three African-American men and one of unknown race who drove the small, white, four-door getaway car. They were armed with a semi-automatic handgun and a shotgun.
The suspects have been described as follows:
#1- Male Black, wearing a black baseball cap, black t-shirt, knee-length blue jean shorts and red bandana around his neck.
#2- Male Black, wearing a black baseball cap with a purple bill, white t-shirt, white shorts and a dark-colored bandana around his neck.
#3- Male Black, black baseball cap, black tank top and black shorts.
#4- No description.
Click here to see video of the robbery. Here's a still shot of the robbery in progress. After this man pointed a gun at the clerk, two other men ran in. One pointed a shotgun while the other two stole money from the cash register and searched the clerk's pockets. The clerk appears unharmed at the end of the video.
General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson has been indicted on four counts of official misconduct by a Shelby County Grand Jury.
From the Shelby County District Attorney's office:
According to the indictment, Jackson, 51, committed the offenses while serving in his official capacity as court clerk during the fall of 2010. The six-month investigation found Jackson had violated Shelby County policies and state law when he required or directed employees to contribute or solicit funds for his own political gains.
“Our citizens place a great deal of trust and confidence in our elected and appointed officials," said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. “When these same officials violate that trust, responsibility rests with our law enforcement community, the District Attorney’s office and our judicial system to identify it, stop it and deter it ... to restore public trust.”
Official misconduct is a Class E felony, and carries up to six years imprisonment, and a fine of not more than $3,000 dollars per count. Upon Jackson’s arraignment on the charges, the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office will prosecute the case in Criminal Court.
Last week, a vacant home at 1104 Beechwood in South Memphis went up in flames, the result of a suspected arson. That home was one of 223 arsons committed in the last nine months in Memphis.
Of those 223 arsons, only 47 arrests have been made, according to records kept by the Memphis Fire Department. The arsons have resulted in an estimated $4 million in property damage.
The Memphis Fire Department and CrimeStoppers held a press conference this afternoon in front of the burned-out Beechwood home to draw attention to the city's arson problem. The department is putting new focus on urging the public to report any tips on suspected arsons to CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH.
CrimeStoppers executive director Buddy Chapman said he can only remember one arson tip ever made to CrimeStoppers.
"Most people don't realize arson is a felony. They don't realize they can call 528-CASH and get a cash reward, anonymously," Chapman said.
The one arson tip Chapman does remember actually resulted in a reward that was paid this morning. It came from a woman in 2008, who reported seeing a man exiting a smoking building on Jefferson in Midtown. That man, Willie Tyler, confessed to that fire, and eventually pleaded guilty to all seven arsons that had occurred in abandoned buildings in Midtown's Washington Bottoms.
May is National Arson Prevention Month.
Here's the long version of a Q&A with new Memphis Police director Toney Armstrong that ran in this week's Memphis Flyer.
He may be best known for extracting a confession from convicted murderer Jessie Dotson in 2008’s Lester Street murder case on A&E’s The First 48. But new Memphis Police director Toney Armstrong has accomplished plenty more outside the reality show’s spotlight.
The Memphis native began his career in the U.S. Army, but he joined the Memphis Police Department (MPD) in 1989 a few years after his honorable discharge. Armstrong made his way through the ranks working undercover and leading in the robbery bureau, the organized crime unit, uniform patrol, missing persons, CrimeStoppers, and the homicide unit. On April 15th, Armstrong was sworn in to lead the department following former director Larry Godwin’s retirement.
The child of a single mother from inner city Memphis, Armstrong says he’ll make community policing his number one focus, allowing technology-driven policing to take on a supporting, rather than starring, role. — Bianca Phillips
You’ve stated that you’re a proponent of community policing, but how is that different from the way the MPD currently operates?
Right now, a lot of what the department does is technology-based. We rely on technology to tell us where to deploy personnel and to tell us what kind of crimes are going on in certain areas. But it’s my position that technology is a tool, and it shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all. There should be some human interaction.
I don’t feel that it puts us in the best light with communities that every time they see us in their community, we’re affecting an arrest.
Does this mean you’ll bring back the inactive COACT community policing units?
I’m in the process now of revamping the COACT units. We’ll probably rework them with a different mission. We do have COACT units, but honestly speaking, they have not been used in a capacity of being community-oriented.
What are some of your other top priorities?
The list is quite long, and I’ve only been here for a week. So obviously, I’ll be evaluating a lot of units and personnel. But as time goes on and those evaluations are complete, I’ll make changes as I see fit.
Will there be big changes?
I’ll be tweaking things in some areas and making big changes in others, but I can’t be specific right now. I can’t sit here and say we’re going to continue in the direction we’re going. I’m a different director than Director Godwin was, so the focus will always be to provide citizens with the best service we can. But how we do that is different from director to director. My focus will be on community policing.
There are some things that we’ve done that Director Godwin initiated that will continue, but I’m not fixing to sit here and say, this unit will be turned upside down and we’re turning the department upside down in reference to personnel. But I will honestly tell you there are some units that I’m looking at and some things that we do that I’m looking at changing.
You’re inheriting a department that’s managed to lower crime significantly. Does that give you more room to tweak and perfect the department’s structure?
The numbers say the crime rate is down, but we have to work on the perception. If you go into some neighborhoods, they’ll tell us we’re not realizing the reduction that we say. They don’t feel their relationship with the police department is that great. We’ve been successful in some areas and in others, we need to do a better job.
Godwin said one of his biggest regrets was not securing a separate police headquarters for the MPD. Will you try to accomplish that?
Right now, I don’t want to say it’s not a priority. Right now, my biggest priority is to maintain the officers that we have. It’s no secret that these are tough economic times. It’s no secret that we’re being asked to make cuts to our budgets. It’s so secret that over 90 percent of our budget is personnel. When you ask us to make cuts, that’s where those cuts come from.
My biggest challenge right now is to make sure we don’t lose any officers to those budget cuts, as well as losing key personnel. We have quite a bit of a support staff. A police headquarters would be great, but I can’t honestly say that I could envision the city earmarking millions of dollars for us to move in that direction when we’re talking about laying personnel off.
What are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about just getting out and meeting people, continuing in the path, and the momentum we’ve had as far as the reduction in crime. But I’m excited for these officers. For the most part, you’ve got a young guy like myself who comes in, and you have officers out there who can see that anything is possible. I’m excited for the community.
I come from a single parent home. My mother raised me in the inner city, and I’m excited to be a source of inspiration for those mothers out there who are having some of the same struggles that my mother had. They can see that there can be positive results if they do what they need to do, even though it’s a challenge everyday. But if you show that child the love they need and the discipline they need, there can be positive results.
What are you least excited about?
Budget cuts are challenging. If you talk to division directors all over the city, it’s tough when you have to make choices as far as people’s careers. I’m least excited about trying to get a budget in place during these tough economic times.
File this one under "Oops!" On Tuesday, Memphis Police officers accidentally arrested one of their own. Officer Edrick Braxton was mistakenly arrested on a warrant for aggravated burglary when his fingerprints were lifted from the scene of a crime.
But turns out Braxton's prints were there because he made the scene when Antavious Christopher called police on March 17th regarding a burglary on Mickey Drive. Christopher had seen someone inside his neighbor's home and called for help. Braxton made the scene and arrested two suspects.
But other officers dusting for prints lifted Braxton's from a lawn mower, and an arrest warrant was issued. Braxton was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated burglary. He was later released and the warrant was recalled. A spokesperson for the MPD said Braxton's prints were on the lawn mower because he touched the item while working the crime scene.
New Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong was sworn in this morning in a ceremony in the Memphis City Council Chambers at City Hall.
Armstrong, a 22-year-veteran of the MPD, promised to focus on strengthening the relationship between police officers and community members, while continuing the technology-driven policing methods instituted by outgoing director Larry Godwin.
"Toney doesn’t have to deal with what I had to deal with. We weren’t just dealing with crime going up. We had all these other issues to deal with. We had personnel issues. We had folks over here that were civilians and making as much [money] as the chief. We had folks that we didn’t even know what they did. We had promotional issues," Godwin told the Flyer in an exit interview last month. "He doesn’t have any of that. He has a crime plan that’s the best in the country. All he has to do is keep doing what he’s doing."
Armstrong joined the MPD in 1989, after serving three years as an Army Field Artillery Specialist. He was first assigned to the West Precinct (now known as Union Station), and in 1991, he began working undercover. Later, Armstrong was moved into the role of investigator in the Organized Crime Unit and then as a sergeant in the robbery bureau.
He's perhaps best known for his role as supervisor of the homicide unit on A&E's The First 48. In that role, Armstrong worked on the infamous Lester Street Murder case and eventually led the unit to an 87 percent solve rate, the highest its ever seen. In 2008, Armstrong was promoted to the rank of commander of the homicide unit. From there, he went on to the role of colonel of downtown's uniform patrol, deputy chief of uniform patrol, and deputy director. He was named to the top cop role in March, shortly after Godwin announced his retirement.
"I think [Toney's] positioned to sort of go the next step," said Dr. Richard Janikowski, associate professor in the University of Memphis Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. "The [former] sheriff, Mark [Luttrell], once said, when the house is on fire, that’s what you’ve got to concentrate on, putting the fire out. Then you can start looking at the electrical wiring."
Memphis Police officer Austin McDaniel, 25, was arrested yesterday afternoon after he allegedly sent pornographic images of himself to a 15-year-old female.
McDaniel was charged with solicitation and sexual exploitation of a minor by electronic means. He has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an investigation. McDaniel, who was hired by the MPD in June 2010, was assigned to the Old Allen precinct.