Victim’s family outraged after gas station clerk charged with voluntary manslaughter, not murder

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis family is outraged after police decided a man shot in a convenience store parking lot Tuesday wasn’t murdered but killed in act of rage.

Nicholas Vitatoe, 41, the overnight clerk at a Circle K on Highway 64, called Memphis police for help, saying a man he’d had locked up a week ago was back.

By the time officers arrived, 57-year-old Marvell Locke was dead. Locke had come to the store asking to clean the parking lot.

“He wasn’t no bad person,” the victim’s daughter Francheskia Locke said. “He just went up there to ask the man can he clean the parking lot. That didn’t give him the reason to kill him.”

Locke’s daughter is upset the clerk wasn’t charged with murder, but voluntary manslaughter, a crime reserved for acts of passion carrying far less prison time, if any at all.

“He called the police, why he didn’t wait on the police, trying to take matters into his own hands, killing an unarmed man,” Francheskia Locke said. “He was unarmed. He didn’t have no weapons.”

Nicholas Vitatoe

Officers used Circle K surveillance video to build their case. They said Vitatoe called police about a man in the parking lot at 1:27 a.m., then heard him say “he wasn’t going to wait for police.” A few minutes later, the camera picked up the sound of a gunshot.

“My father has a mental issue—that’s what he have,” Francheskia Locke said. “He don’t have no violent nature. He has a mental issue.”

Locke’s family said a lot of people in that area of Cordova knew he suffered from mental illness, including those at the store.

WREG found he’d been arrested at the same store at least three times. In 2018, WREG also reported police arrested Locke for indecent exposure outside nearby Cordova High.

“The system didn’t help him,” Francheskia Locke said. “They didn’t try to get him no help, and they knew it.”

“How come after this one time he got shot, after this one time,” Kordera Locke, the victim’s son, said. “They know him. I just want justice for my dad. That’s all. This is not right.”

WREG called the district attorney’s office, and they said the charges can be amended at any time, but they gave no indication that was being done as of now.

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