A Memphis man who was killed by a U.S. marshals task force, sparking violent protests in his neighborhood, was wanted for shooting a man multiple times and stealing his car after posing as an interested buyer, authorities in Mississippi said.
Authorities had previously not said why police has been trying to arrest 20-year-old Brandon Webber. Thirty six police officers were hurt in protests Wednesday night in north Memphis after police shot and killed Webber as they tried to arrest him. Memphis police said that Webber had resisted arrest––ramming his car, which authorities said was the one he stole, into officers’ vehicles and brandishing a weapon when he got out. Many in the community questioned officials’ account of the incident.
In a joint press conference Thursday, Hernando, Miss. Police Chief Scott Worsham and North Mississippi District Attorney John Champion said Webber was being sought on warrants that were a result of a violent armed robbery. Webber met up with a man in Hernando, which is about 25 miles south of Memphis, to inquire about a red Infinity that was listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace. After a test drive the two began negotiating a price when Webber shot the man five times at point-blank range and stole a vehicle “leaving him for dead,” Worsham said.
Authorities said the man survived and identified Webber. Police added that they are still searching for a second suspect who drove Webber to Hernando and was at the scene when he allegedly shot the victim.
Champion said Webber was wanted for aggravated assault, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Champion said the nature of the warrants justified authorities’ use of force, saying Webber had “no appreciation for human life.”
“This was a violent felon who did not obviously want to go jail and they ended up, from my knowledge, doing what they had to do to not only protect themselves but to protect other people around them in the neighborhood.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations confirmed that Webber had several warrants for his arrest but would not confirm what for, fueling speculation among activist and protestors that the task force response was excessive. Many, including Webber’s father, said that Webber was not violent.
Activist Pamela Moses, founder of the Memphis Black Lives Matter chapter and a candidate for mayor, tells TIME that she believes police should have responded more responsibly.
“They shot and killed someone while executing a warrant, they are supposed to be trained to apprehend without deadly force, but when it comes to us, we always have to die,” she said.