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Memphis police officer and teen suspect killed in early-morning shootout

Officer Joseph McKinney died in the shootout and two other officers were injured. An 18-year-old suspect was also killed, and a 17-year-old suspect was critically wounded, police said.
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A Memphis police officer and a teenager were killed during a shootout early Friday after police responded to call about a suspicious vehicle.

Officers responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle at Horn Lake Road and Charter Avenue at 2 a.m. Friday, police said. When they approached the car, police said they were fired upon by the occupants inside and officers returned fire.

In the shower of bullets, two teenage suspects and three officers were hit, resulting in deaths of one suspect and one officer, identified as officer Joseph McKinney.

In the chaos, the suspect vehicle fled and officers pursued. The car stopped in the 400 block of Hewlett Road and one suspect was taken into custody. The other suspect fled the scene and was located nearby and also taken into custody, police said.

Two officers were transported to Regional One Health Hospital in Memphis, and “tragically one of our officers lost his life,” Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis said in a morning news conference.

McKinney had joined the department in 2020, Davis said.

Officer Joseph McKinney smiles next to a police car.
Officer Joseph McKinney.Memphis Police Dept. / via Facebook

A second officer has been upgraded to noncritical condition and “is doing well,” she said.

A third officer was treated on the scene and is in stable condition, Davis said. Police initially said that two were struck and a third was grazed by gunfire.

Both suspects were also transported in critical condition to Regional One, where one suspect, described as an 18-year-old who had been driving the suspect vehicle, died of his wounds, Davis said. His name was not disclosed.

The other suspect, described as 17, remains in the hospital.

Davis said the 18-year-old suspect who died had been previously arrested by Memphis police in March, found in a stolen vehicle with “an illegal modified semi-automatic weapon with a Glock switch attached” that converted the weapon into a fully automatic machine gun.

At that time the teen was also charged in connection with two stolen vehicles and having a programming device commonly used to steal cars. He was released at that time without bond, she said.

Davis said the local district attorney’s office has been notified and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is on the scene and will investigate the shooting.

“We’re not just concerned about our officers, we’re concerned about the public in general. This could have been anybody and we’re just really, really disturbed at the boldness and the use of weapons and just all these different situations that we’re seeing in our community,” Davis said.

“We have a family that’s grieving now, a wife that’s grieving now, the families of the suspects that are grieving now. As a community we have to do better. We have to ensure that parents know where our young people are at 3 o’clock in the morning,” she added.

Mayor Paul Young said “we need a community call to action,” describing the incident a “senseless act of violence.”

“We know that we as a community have to do more to hold violent offenders accountable for their actions, even our young people. We have to make sure we are pressing for accountability. We want to protect our community, our young people are depending on us to get this right,” Young added.

Sergeant Matt Cunningham, the president of the Memphis Police Association, told NBC News Friday: “This is the most tragic situation any police department can experience.”

“We have a problem, a revolving door at our jail,” Cunningham explained.

“The suspect in this shooting was released from jail on his own recognizance — he got right back out on the street and armed himself, and got into a shooting with an officer who died, and he lost his life as well — and that’s tragic too,” he said. “If he had been kept in jail, he would be alive himself. So that’s the situation here in Shelby County, we have to do something about the revolving door at our jail.”

The union has started a fundraiser for the officer’s family on Facebook.