MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A man who was stabbed to death near a Memphis brewery on Monday was just trying to help, a witness said, after a visiting couple was attacked by a man on the street.
Investigators have identified the victim as 61-year-old Phillip Godwin. They say the man who admitted to stabbing him is Antwon Freeman, 32.
Police say a husband and wife who were traveling through Memphis decided to stop at High Cotton Brewery on Monroe Avenue in the Edge District near Downtown.
As the couple were walking in, Freeman suddenly struck the husband with a cinder block. A witness, who doesn’t want to be identified, described what happened next.
“Immediately followed by the victim’s wife screaming and everyone was kinda taken by surprise. You know, they stumbled into the bar asking for help,” the witness recalled. “There was a fairly serious wound to the man’s forehead where, I’m not sure if that was where he was hit with the brick or if he suffered that wound when he fell.”
Several people from the bar, including Godwin, got up to help and called 911. They saw Freeman headed up the street.
“He was just trying to keep the suspect in sight. We knew the police were on the way,” the witness said. “I don’t think Phil was trying to do anything foolish. I think he was just trying to be as helpful as he could be.”
According to court records, Godwin and another person followed Freeman to a nearby construction site and into a vacant building.
Police arrived and took Freeman, who was covered in blood and armed with a kitchen knife, into custody.
Detectives later found Godwin inside the vacant building, stabbed to death.
Once questioned, police say Freeman told them he was walking down Monroe when an unknown person yelled racial slurs and threw a rock at him. He said he never saw the person but they drove a white truck.
When he saw the couple walking outside the brewery he thought they might be the ones who threw the rock, so he attacked the man.
When he tried to hide in the abandoned building, he heard footsteps coming towards him and just started stabbing a person before blacking out.
Robert Heimbach, who was Godwin’s neighbor and friend in their tight knight Rossville community, said Godwin’s wife called him to the scene for help when he didn’t return to the brewery.
“From my understanding he was basically trying to get video of the guy so that they could ID him,” he said. “Of all the situations he could have been in through his 30 years of military service and other service to think he was killed in Memphis is crazy.”
Heimbach said Godwin was spreading holiday cheer when he was killed.
“He was supposed to be leaving today for Hawaii so he went down to High Cotton to pass out Christmas cards to the staff of High Cotton,” he said.
Freeman is expected to be in court Wednesday morning. He is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault. Bond has not been set.
WREG also dug into Freeman’s criminal history. In 2015, he was arrested in an MPD sting for trying to meet up with a minor for sex. In 2020, he was arrested for throwing a concrete block through the windshield of an MPD cruiser.