Letter From The Editor 

Police shooting of son raises Askew family's suspicions.

Last Friday, Sylvia and Sterling Askew got the kind of call that every parent fears. It was from the Memphis Police Department, telling them that their son Steven, 24, had been shot and killed by police officers while sitting in his car. (Full disclosure: Sylvia is a secretary at the U.S. Public Defenders Office, where my wife works as an attorney.)

The Askews were not allowed to see their son's body for several days, until an autopsy was completed. Nor were they allowed to see his car, which was impounded, pending an investigation by the MPD.

click to enlarge MPD Blue Crush training.
  • MPD Blue Crush training.

Steven Askew had no criminal record. He was a 2006 graduate of Wooddale High School. After high school, he graduated from an airplane mechanics school. He was employed full-time. He was in the habit of going to his girlfriend's apartment complex and sleeping in his car until she got off work, which is what he was doing when he was shot. He had a permit to carry a pistol.

The Askews' attorney conducted an investigation and found witnesses who said that police officers approached Steven's car on foot from behind, then fired as many as 20 shots into the car. He also obtained a video taken by a resident of the apartment complex.

The police report states that the officers saw Askew point a gun at them, so they opened fire. Why Askew would have pointed a gun at police officers is unknown, though he may have been startled awake and reflexively reached for his weapon. Not too much is clear at this point.

But what is clear is the disturbing video, which shows 17 seconds of silence as officers approached the car after the initial fusillade of shots. It then appears to show the officers firing three more shots into Askew's body.

If this is proper police procedure for the MPD these days, then we are in a lot of trouble. I know that police work is dangerous and thankless, and by no means am I condemning the job that the great majority of our officers do. This case, however, raises legitimate questions about whether proper police protocol was followed.

A copy of the video was turned over to the MPD, but the Askew family is asking that their son's death be investigated by an outside agency, perhaps the U.S. attorney, TBI, or FBI. I think that is a reasonable and necessary course of action, particularly when — not if — this video goes public.

Bruce VanWyngarden

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

    • Flat City

    • Me and Beer


Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday Special Thursday Edition: Dead Soldiers

Music Blog

Chris Robinson Brotherhood at New Daisy Saturday

News Blog

Severe Storm Headed toward Mid-South

News Blog

Gannett Unveils Plan for The Commercial Appeal

Music Blog

Bruce Sudano at Minglewood and Stax

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week (March 30-April 5)

Beyond the Arc

Notes on “Grit and Grind: Burned in a Pale Fire”


More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • Serious Christians

    What is the picture on your computer's desktop screen? Your kids? Your dog? Maybe a memorable vacation photo? Mine is a shot I took one October morning in 2012 as I was about to wade into the Little Red River. A mist is coming off the water, lit golden by a rising sun. The streamside trees are glowing yellow and red and that pale, dry green that says autumn is here. The photo captures everything I like about being on a stream. I put it on my computer so I'd see it each morning when I began to work — a reminder of the beauty that's so easy to lose sight of in the hustle of everyday life ...
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Where Nobody Knows Your Name

    The hacktivist group Anonymous announced last week that they would be outing hundreds of Americans who were involved with the Ku Klux Klan. The group claimed that they'd hacked KKK servers and obtained emails and documents that would reveal that many prominent American politicians were associated with the white supremacist group ...

    • Nov 5, 2015
  • The Cocksure Candidate

    "The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt." — Bertrand Russell

    • Dec 3, 2015
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation