(Reuters) – U.S. Marshals Service agents fatally shot a young black man in Memphis, Tennessee during an attempted arrest, triggering overnight clashes with protesters that left at least two dozen police officers injured, officials said on Thursday.
The man, identified as 20-year-old Brandon Webber, was wanted on “multiple felony warrants” and was shot by the agents in “response to a threat posed by the subject,” the Marshals Service said in a statement.
Webber rammed his vehicle into vehicles driven by the agents at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the working-class neighborhood of Frayser, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Webber was carrying an unspecified weapon when he got out of his vehicle, the bureau said.
Public records show Webber was arrested previously for possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and driving with an expired or suspended license and an improperly displayed registration plate. It was not immediately clear if he was ever prosecuted.
Webber was the eldest of eight children, said his father, Sonny Webber. He had two young children of his own, a 2-year-old boy and a newborn daughter, and was expecting a second daughter soon.
“He wasn’t a bad guy,” his father told Reuters in a brief telephone interview. “He wasn’t even living long enough to be a bad guy.”
Shortly before being shot, Webber posted a live video on Facebook that showed him in a car, rapping and apparently smoking a marijuana cigarette. In the video, he looked out the window and said he saw police. With a laugh, he looked directly into the camera and said what sounded like the officers would “have to kill me.”
As news of the death spread, an angry crowd estimated at about 300 people gathered in the streets. Some threw rocks and spat at the police, Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement. Police strapped on protective riot gear and tried to control the crowd by spraying chemicals, according to officials and media reports. Video footage of the protests showed one man bashing a police car with a chair. The mayor said “multiple police cars” were vandalized.
At least 24 officers and deputies were injured, with six hospitalized, the mayor said. Two journalists also were injured. The injuries were mostly minor, police said, and the crowd eventually dispersed. It was not clear how many protesters or bystanders were hurt or whether anyone was arrested.
The tense scene raised the possibility of more disturbances in the predominantly black city, evoking memories of a string of sometimes violent protests against police brutality that broke out in other cities in recent years. Those clashes, notably many days of protests after an unarmed black man was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The U.S. Marshals Service, an arm of the U.S. Justice Department, arrests fugitives, among other roles. Its statement did not identify the specific charges the warrants covered.
Leslie Earhart, a spokeswoman for the bureau, declined to provide further information about the shooting while the investigation was ongoing, including the type of weapon Webber was reported to have had, the reason for the arrest warrants, and whether Webber’s father and neighbors were correct when they said Webber had been shot between 16 and 20 times.
Reporting by Rich McKay and Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky