Man killed by U.S. Marshals in Memphis was wanted for violent car theft

The fatal shooting of Brandon Webber sparked a night of clashes between protesters and police.
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By David K. Li and Doha Madani

A man who was fatally shot by U.S. Marshals, touching off a night of clashes between protesters and police in Memphis, Tennessee, was wanted in connection to a violent car theft in Mississippi, officials said Thursday.

Brandon Webber, 20, was killed during a confrontation with the United States Marshals Service's Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force on Wednesday night, authorities said. The 20-year-old was wanted in connection to a June 3 robbery about 30 miles south of Memphis in Hernando, Mississippi.

Brandon D. Webbervia Facebook

John Champion, the district attorney for the 17th Circuit Court District of Mississippi, said Thursday that Webber was wanted for aggravated assault, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Webber contacted a 24-year-old who was selling his red Infiniti G35 via Facebook and arranged a meeting under the guise of buying the car.

The two were in the Infiniti together when Webber asked the seller if he could take the car for a test drive, according to Champion.

"And as our victim got out of the passenger seat from the test drive, he went around the back of the car where Mr. Weber met him with a pistol and shot him five times," Champion said. The victim is expected to survive.

A man identified as Sonny Webber, right, the father of Brandon Webber, joins a standoff as protesters march in the streets on Memphis on June 12, 2019. Brandon Webber was killed by federal authorities, sparking protests across the city.Jim Weber / Daily Memphian via AP

Webber then left the area driving the victim's vehicle, followed by an accomplice in a small, dark-colored passenger car, authorities said.

Webber was difficult to find at first because he used a fake Facebook page and phone number to set up the meeting about the car, Champion said. The victim positively identified Webber through a photo spread provided by detectives.

Warrants were issued for Webber's arrest on June 8, five days after the car theft. Authorities are still searching for the alleged accomplice to the incident.

The U.S. Marshals Task Force became involved once it was known he had crossed state lines into Tennessee, where Mississippi police no longer had jurisdiction. When the task force finally spotted Webber in Memphis, the suspect allegedly rammed them with a car and brandished a gun.

"The Marshals were attempting to serve a warrant on a 20-year-old man with multiple felony warrants. In response to a threat posed by the subject, members of the task force fired their weapons, striking and killing him," according to a statement from the Marshals.

Champion defended the actions of the Marshals, describing Webber as a "very violent felon."

"When you're dealing with somebody like the things Mr. Webber did here, it's obvious that he had no appreciation for the value of human life," Champion said.

Local residents squared off with Memphis police Wednesday night after Webber's death, allegedly hurling rocks and other objects at officers. Officers had to don protective gear and a chemical agent was used to disperse the crowd.

About 35 law enforcement officers were injured, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. Two journalists were also hurt in the protests.

"I grieve for the loss of life and grieve for this man's family because they lost a loved one," Strickland told WMC-TV. "The reaction, the assault of police officers, and the sheriff's deputies and even members of the media is absolutely unwarranted and unacceptable."

David K. Li

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Doha Madani

Doha Madani is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.