Last summer, CrimeStoppers was given $10,000 by a group of anonymous donors to be used specifically as a reward for tips on local dogfighting rings. No conviction is required for a tipster to get the reward. Only an arrest or issuance of an arrest warrant is required.
But despite the lack of a need for conviction, no tips have yet come in that have resulted in an arrest. Since then, another $2,000 has been added to the coffer. CrimeStoppers director Buddy Chapman is afraid people may have forgotten the money is available, and he's now trying to spread the word once again.
"The whole problem is that we've had dogfighting taking place in the shadows. It's not something the community has seen as important," Chapman said. "But I don't want Memphis to be known as a place where dogfighting is tolerated."
Chapman said it's possible that recent attention to the violent blood sport may have pushed some dogfighting activity into the rural Tennessee and Arkansas counties surrounding Memphis, but he believes local dogfighting will pick back up again in the summer.
"It tends to be seasonal," Chapman said, while explaining that most dogfighting pits are located outdoors.
Many dogfighters have also taken their operation on wheels with trunking (fighting dogs in the closed trunk of a car) or fighting dogs in vans as they're driven along the interstate.
Anyone with tips on local dogfighting operations is encouraged to call 528-CASH. If the tip results in an arrest or arrest warrant, the tipster may receive $1,000. All calls to CrimeStoppers are anonymous.
Demetria Hogan, the Memphis Animal Services control officer who was arrested last year after a pit bull dog went missing from her care, has been indicted on four counts of official misconduct, one count of forgery, one count of theft of property, and one count of animal cruelty.
Hogan picked up two pit bulls in Cordova that had escaped from their backyard on June 24th. She wrote in her log that she picked up both dogs and checked them into the shelter's holding area. But only one dog actually made it back to the animal shelter. Video surveillance showed that Hogan never checked the dogs into the holding area. One dog, Jersey, was handled by another employee. A police investigation revealed that Hogan stole the older pit bull, Kapone.
After a massive media campaign boasting an $8,000 reward for Kapone's return, the dog was finally discovered living in a home in Senatobia, Mississippi. The details as to how Kapone got there are not clear.
Hogan's cruelty charge stems from a separate incident, when a stray she picked up on July 12th died from the heat while in her care.
The charges for official misconduct, forgery, and theft of property are Class E felonies. If convicted, Hogan will face a sentence of one to six years. The cruelty to animals charge is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days.
On Wednesday afternoon around 2:30 p.m., Shelby County sheriff's deputies responded to a fight call near Shelby Drive and Hacks Cross involving about 20 to 30 teenagers.
Witnesses told police shots had been fired by an unknown male who fled in a vehicle, and 19-year-old Valencia Parker was transported to the Regional Medical Center of Memphis in stable condition after she was punctured with an object on her upper right arm. The Shelby County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) has determined Parker's wound was not related to the gunshot.
The SCSO investigation into the fight revealed that a group of girls from Whitehaven High School had traveled to the neighborhood near Southwind High School in search of a female student who had posted comments they didn't like on Facebook. When they were unable to find that girl, the group started a fight with two other girls walking along Ridge Walk Lane.
The crowd eventually escalated to include between 20 and 30 juveniles, both male and female, and multiple fights broke out. Seven people were arrested and detained, and two females, ages 15 and 16, were charged with disorderly conduct.
Three Memphis Animal Services employees were arrested Thursday morning on six counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.
Frank Lightfoot Jr. and Billy D. Stewart are each charged with four counts of aggravated animal cruelty, and Archie Elliott III is charged with two counts of aggravated animal cruelty. These felony charges carry sentences of one to six years.
At a press conference this morning, authorities were vague on the details of what happened to the animals, but prosecutor Paul Hagerman with the Shelby County District Attorney's Office confirmed that the abuses occurred right before the animals were scheduled to be euthanized. Six animals were victimized, but Hagerman would not reveal whether they were dogs, cats, or a combination of both.
"These acts are not up to interpretation as to whether or not they constitute animal cruelty," said Mayor A C Wharton at this morning's press conference. "It's easy enough for a second grader to know someone needs to get in trouble for what they did."
The abuses were witnessed by an undercover Memphis Police officer, who has been employed by Memphis Animal Services since November 2011.
"This is an extraordinary step to have to use undercover officers," Wharton said. "Puppies, kittens, and dogs can't call their lawyer. They can't file a report about what's happening to them. We can only find out by using undercover officers."
Wharton's request to send an undercover officer to investigate the shelter stemmed from concerns about dog fighting, animal cruelty, and missing and unaccounted for animals. However, Wharton said the aggravated animal cruelty charges filed against the three employees were not related to dog fighting.
Wharton said that nearly one-third of Memphis Animal Services employees have been dismissed over the past two years as a result on wrongdoing.
"Some have said, 'Why don't you just fire everybody?'" Wharton said. "I refuse to do that. There are some great shelter employees."
Shelter employees are currently undergoing re-training at the request of interim shelter director James Rogers.
Alvin Upchurch, 17, has been arrested and charged with first degree murder in the January 13th shooting death of 17-year-old Terrence Wilkins.
Wilkins was shot around 9 p.m. near the corner of Linden and Bellevue after leaving a basketball game at Central High School. He was transported to the Regional Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. Police say the shooting stemmed from an altercation over a hat. During the argument, an acquaintance of Wilkins pulled out a handgun and began firing. Wilkins was struck.
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.