MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The killing of Police Officer Sean Bolten in 2015 had Memphis on edge.
From the frantic 911 call the night he was shot during a routine traffic stop to the all out hunt for the suspect Tremaine Wilbourn and the money offered for his capture, things were tense.
“I have requested City Councilman Myron Lowery and he has agreed to ask the council to post an award in a similar amount of 10-thousand dollars,” then Mayor A C Wharton said two years ago.
It turns out the reward money, eventually up to $50,000, that the City told the media and public was there never really was.
WREG confirmed with former City of Memphis CAO Jack Sammons that though the A C Wharton Administration tried to raise the money, they never got a dime even though they led to the public to believe otherwise.
Sammons told WREG, “It was a strategy to smoke out the bad guy”.
The head of Crimestoppers Buddy Chapman says the money never came to Crimestoppers, even though he met with Sammons about setting up the payment.
“I am not sure there was $50,000. As I understood it, there were pledges to pay $50,000,” said Chapman.
“If they had it or not, they made that statement,” said Pastor Ralph White.
It all came to light when Pastor Ralph White attempted to claim the reward.
He was Tremaine Wilbourn’s Pastor and was by Wilbourn’s side when he turned himself in. White says he convinced Wilbourn to surrender.
“He called me,” said White.
Pastor White is now in a legal fight with the City of Memphis to get the reward money.
He wants to use part of it to provide ministry for the youth around his South Memphis Church.
“It doesn’t matter what I do with it. I could take a match to it and burn it up. The reward belongs to the individual who fulfilled that,” said White. “What’s really at stake here is the reputation of the city. ”
Buddy Chapman hopes it doesn’t blemish Crimestoppers, who only gives out up to a $1,000 a reward but does handle reward donations.
Crimestoppers only pays out its reward if the tip is called in to 528-CASH and in the Wilbourn case no one ever called the Crimestoppers Hotline.
“Crimestoppers was never involved other than being asked if they gave us the money could we pay it anonymously,” said Chapman.
“It’s gonna be a mark on them for them to have people come in anonymously and turn in individuals,” said White.
Ralph White says the City of Memphis did offer him 5-thousand dollars to settle this, leading him to believe they know it hasn’t been handled properly.
But he says the city also wants him to turn over the names and contact information of the people who helped him reach Tremaine Wilbourn, something he isn’t willing to give.
So the lawsuit goes on. The City of Memphis refused to comment because of pending litigation