Day one of the federal trial over Memphis’ police surveillance wrapped up Monday with Sgt. Timothy Reynolds of the Memphis Police Department (MPD) on the stand.
Reynolds, who works in MPD’s Office of Homeland Security, was one of the key personnel responsible for creating and using the undercover social media accounts of Bob Smith.
On the stand, Reynolds admitted to adding more than 200 friends who he said were in connection to protests and other gatherings that could become unlawful.
First created in 2009, the Bob Smith account was intitially used solely for investigations and gang-related crimes, but its use changed over time, Reynolds said. A different and more specific type of intelligence gathering started after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, as “we didn’t want a copycat shooter,” he said.
Other evidence revealed the undercover account actively sharing links, commenting on and liking posts, joining and posting in groups, and responding to event requests.
The information gathered through the Bob Smith accounts was then used to monitor the organizers of protests and other community events that MPD thought could be a threat to safety. Many of the events were centered around 19-year-old Darius Stewart, who was killed by an MPD officer in July 2017. Gatherings associated with the Black Lives Matter movement were also closely followed.
However, gatherings like town hall meetings and concerts were also monitored, Reynolds said.
In one email presented to the court, Reynolds' boss, then-Major Eddie Bass, made Reynolds aware of the “potential for another adverse gathering” planned by organizers of a vigil that Reynolds had previously referred to as “peaceful.”
On another occasion, Reynolds said protesters were trying to “circumvent the permit process,” by planning events in public spaces like libraries where permits aren’t needed.
The plaintiff’s counsel also brought forth emails showing that on multiple occasions MPD shared intelligence on individuals and planned events with organizations outside law enforcement, like Fedex, AutoZone, and Memphis Light, Gas & Water. The information was shared via daily Joint Intelligence Briefing memos.
The plaintiff will resume questioning Reynolds Tuesday morning before the defense begins its cross-examination. After Reynolds, the next witnesses slated to take the stand are Mike Cody, Bruce Kramer, Major Stephen Chandler, and MPD director Michael Rallings.