MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The majority of the victims violently killed last year were African American men, and nearly a dozen hadn’t even reached their 18th birthday.
Three hundred and one homicides were reported in Memphis last year, according to MPD’s latest data. Of those, 248 were murders, which means police classified it as an intentional killing.
The deadly violence has left a city numb to the blue lights and yellow tape, and families numb from the pain. WREG Investigators have dug deeper to find out more about the deadly crimes that occurred.
While the numbers decreased from years past, that’s still hundreds of loved ones, families, and friends coping with loss.
Jannie Steele is one of them. Her grandson Bentavious Anderson was shot to death in a rooming house on Bryan Street in September. He was only 21 years old.
“We went over there. All the tape was around the house. He had been shot five times,” she said. “I am praying. Praying every day.”
Steele said her faith has been her guiding light through a dark time that’s lasted too long. She says 15 years ago, she lost her daughter, who was Anderson’s mother, to gun violence.
To try to understand the deadly violence, WREG Investigators uncovered the Memphis Police Department’s records through the Tennessee Records Act breaking down who, when, how, and why some of the deadly killings occurred last year.
We learned most occurred on Sundays. July was the deadliest month, followed by September and April.
They happened in every part of the city, but a third happened in Zip codes that include Frayser, the Airport area, and Southeast and South Memphis.
MPD said the victims were as old as 81 and the youngest was just a year old. Half of them were 29 years or younger.
Eighty-nine percent of victims were African American and, in most of those cases, the victim knew their killer. It stemmed from an argument.
Something police pointed out when an argument escalated into gunfire and left an 18-month baby dead in the Chicago Park Place Apartments in November 2022.
“We need to do better. We have to be better about conflict resolution,” Sgt. Louis Brownlee said on the scene.
Another driver was domestic violence. Chief CJ Davis told the city council it’s been a challenge.
“We try to make sure our officers are able to try and help mitigate some of those situations when they go out on those calls,” she told the council in January.
While the homicide rate was lower in 2022 than in 2021, stakeholders say it isn’t a celebration. There’s still plenty of work to be done.
They are also taking a closer look at the data to tackle bigger issues like poverty, unemployment, mental health services, and more intervention programs
Until then, the caseload only continues to grow. As of January, MPD reported 67 percent of the homicides last year was solved.
Sadly, that doesn’t include Steele’s grandson’s case. Police don’t know who shot him. They don’t know the motive according to their records. Only causing more pain.
“I just wish it would stop. It just needs to stop,” she said.
Beyond the blue lights and yellow tape, know there’s someone like Steele who is hurting, grieving, and numb.
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