MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After a horrific week of violence in Memphis, Governor Bill Lee, flanked by law enforcement officers, came to the Bluff City Friday morning with a tough message on crime.
“The people of Memphis have seen the face of evil,” Lee said. “Innocent lives have been taken, and these criminals will be held accountable, and justice should be and will be swift and severe.”
Addressing the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher last week and the crime spree that paralyzed Memphis on Wednesday, Lee says so-called “soft plea deals” such as the one murder suspect Ezekiel Kelly had must come to an end.
“Those consequences were on full display when we had an offender who had a plea deal down to a lesser offense go on a killing spree in West Tennessee,” Lee said.
Lee says proven crime prevention and putting more police on the streets work.
“It’s why we have committed to hiring an additional 100 troopers, 20 of those will be committed to Memphis, and why we’ve funded $100 million in our violent crime intervention grant fund,” Lee said.
Since Wednesday, many city and state leaders have debated the importance of the new Truth in Sentencing law, which requires offenders to serve 100 percent of their prison sentence.
The governor did not sign the bill earlier this year.
“Regardless of sentence swing, the vast majority will get out,” Lee said. “The way we work to rehabilitate them before they get out has a significant impact on whether or not they will repeat crime.”
As for crime in Memphis, Lee says it’s a cloud that should not define this city if everyone works together.
“I know the people of Memphis,” Lee said. “They won’t accept this, and they should not accept this, and it should not define this city.”
Lee says it will take all of us in the community, including churches, nonprofits and law enforcement, to help reduce crime.