Our in-depth WREG investigation into kids and crime continues with a Memphis father’s story. He said life hasn’t been the same after a group of kids fired several shots at him.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — He was one of their four victims in a matter of hours.
The night of February 3, home surveillance cameras caught a sedan prowling an East Memphis neighborhood, and then pulling up to a home. The passengers get out.
“I was going to my mother’s house to pickup her dog, because she was out of town,” Alex Canale said. “And as I was about to get out of the car, I saw four gunmen with one gun pointed right at my head outside of the driver’s side window.”
The next moments are haunting.
“I threw the car in reverse. Ran over a brick pillar. Ripped the back of the car up,” he said.
Canale dialed 911 as another home security camera captured him trying to escape, and the gunmen close behind.
“You are terrified. Literally terrified,” he said.
The security camera then captured an even scarier noise — several gunshots.
“I’m crouched down hoping nothing hits me. I had one come right over my ear and come right over the headboard right above my head. That’s the bullet my son found the next day,” Canale said.
Somehow Canale dodged the bullets and got away. He drove until an officer could meet him.
“The ramifications aren’t, ‘Whoops we missed,'” he said.
It was much more. WREG investigators learned Canale wasn’t the only one who lost his sense of security that night. The teenagers were first seen in Cooper-Young.
“I heard a tap. I looked up. There was an Uzi in his window,” a woman told us in March in an interview.
She didn’t want to give her name for safety reasons, but said the group of teens aimed a gun at her and friends.
“They had it in his back at one point. Then in his stomach at another point, and giving him instructions like, give me your keys,” she said.
From there, the teens went to Laurie Lane in East Memphis, where police say they carjacked a woman. She said they aimed a gun at her blind daughter’s head.
Canale was the third victim. He was followed by an armed robbery in Hickory Hill where that victim told police she saw AR-style rifles hanging out of the getaway car.
Police made an arrest the next day.
Canale said he was devastated when he heard their ages.
Through Shelby County Juvenile Court and police records, we learned a 16-year-old was charged with motor vehicle theft. A 14-year-old was nabbed for theft and a gun charge. Another 14-year-old and a 17-year-old were charged with attempted second degree murder, three counts of aggravated robbery and two counts of carjacking.
They were put on ankle monitors and sent home.
“I heard nothing. I physically had to call Juvenile Court and figure out the process,” Canale said.
He said two of the teens’ charges were later dropped, and the other two entered a plea deal. He said they got 90 days on an ankle monitor, community service, required school enrollment and had to take a class that aims to divert youth caught with a gun.
They also had to enter Youth Villages’ SWITCH program, where clinical specialists and life coaches team up to help high-risk youth.
Canale calls that a slap on the wrist.
“I believe in the Youth Villages’ program. I am also a realist,” he said. “I believe if there is no actionable defense of the criminal activity, then it doesn’t matter what class you go through.”
Juvenile court wouldn’t talk about specific cases in our interview, but said research shows appropriate interventions lead to long-term success and helps the child become a productive member of society.
“Having kids in detention is more harmful than rehabilitating then in the community. Nationally, that’s not disputed,” said Stephanie Hill with Juvenile Court.
Juvenile court went on to report that in 2022, 900 juveniles were assessed and referred to appropriate services.
What happens after that is unclear. Juvenile Court said it doesn’t track the outcomes beyond the interaction of the court.
“You’re just going to have to sit and wait to see if reform is actually working,” Canale said, “rather than taking a quick action and say you can’t do what you’re doing.”
Canale said his life has forever changed. He got rid of his car, which was left riddled in bullets. He’s constantly looking over his shoulder.
“My children are in therapy. I went through therapy,” he said.
He believes what happened is a threat to the city’s sense of safety, and “if we don’t take action now, we might not recover.”
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