MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Shelby County Sheriff's deputy shot and killed a suspect after the deputy was stabbed Monday morning in Downtown Memphis, state and county authorities said.
It happened around 10 on Fourth Street between Poplar Avenue and Exchange, across the street from the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar.
Keli McAlister, public information officer with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said the deputy was called to a reported sexual assault nearby when he saw a man believed to be involved. The deputy pursued that suspect, who stabbed the deputy, she said.
“While talking with the alleged victim, the woman spotted the male suspect," McAlister said. "The suspect led the officer on a brief foot pursuit, during which reports from the scene indicate that the individual pulled out a knife and stabbed the deputy in the arm. The officer then fired at the man, striking him.”
The suspect was taken to Regional One in critical condition, but McAlister later said he died.
He was identified by TBI as James Lee Kirkwood, 49.
Kirkwood was a convicted sex offender who entered the system almost 30 years ago, when he was convicted of rape in West Memphis on July 1, 1993.
Records show he had constant issues staying clean, being arrested for violating his sex offender requirements, as well as multiple counts of assault.
Authorities did not release the nature of the alleged sexual assault that preceded the shooting, but witnesses describe a man who was disturbed.
“The man was coming behind the young lady with his pants all half off," a witness said. “He was assaulting the lady, he was masturbating.”
The deputy was treated and released, the sheriff's office said. The Shelby County Sheriff's Office said he was placed on leave.
TBI was called in the case because it involves an officer.
The area where the incident took place experiences heavy foot traffic, with some residents and employees from the area complaining about safety. Authorities say after this latest incident, they might evaluate the way it’s policed.
“This is a constant review. When we see changes need to be made, we make those changes," said Capt. Anthony Buckner with the sheriff's office. "But this incident, like any other incident, we’ll go back, look at some of our procedures, and if any changes need to be made, we’ll consider those.”