MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Emotions ran high on the streets of Frayser on Wednesday night after yet another officer-involved shooting in America.
Wearing full riot gear, Memphis Police tried to calm the angry crowd. The crowd was undoubtedly made “angrier” by rumors circulating on social media.
“We seem to be living in a world of outrage. People want to jump immediately to being outraged over a situation. And then to fuel that outrage with outright lies, that’s a dangerous combination,” Criminal Defense Attorney Claiborne Ferguson said.
Many posts claimed Brandon Webber was killed by Memphis Police, even though their department only stepped in to help U.S. Marshals after the shooting. Other posts insisted U.S. Marshals shot Webber 16 to 20 times, those claims were repeated by County Commissioner, and mayoral candidate, Tami Sawyer.
I was in Frayser tonight because Brandon Webber was shot 16-20 times in his family’s front yard on the same day as the Pulse nightclub shooting anniversary and on the same day that the DA chose not to charge another police officer for murdering a civilian.
— Tami Sawyer (@tamisawyer) June 13, 2019
Others said Webber was handcuffed when he was killed, but none of the facts corroborate those details.
“We should all wait and make sure we know exactly what happened before we spread misinformation. MPD has been very supportive of protests, but we will not allow violence or destruction of property,” MPD Director Michael Rallings said.
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Louis Brownlee, MPD’s public information officer, even hit back. He posted on his personal Facebook page that “spreading lies, gossip and innuendo serves no one justice.”
“I understand the community’s frustration and anger. We do have issues and problems that need to be addressed in this country. Again, I just wish that we would wait until the facts come to light. I hope that the investigation is done transparently and open,” he continued.
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We wanted to give Tami Sawyer a chance to talk to us about the posts she made on social media during the initial stages of the investigation, but she hasn’t returned our requests for comment.