The suspect in the Memphis shooting has been granted a public defender

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – A Tennessee man accused of killing four people and injuring three others in a live-streamed shooting that paralyzed Memphis and sparked a citywide manhunt has been granted a public defender during a court appearance on Friday morning and will remain in jail on a charge of first degree murder.

Ezekiel Kelly, 19, told a judge he could not afford a lawyer for the charges in Wednesday’s attack that sent panic and fear across the city.

Additional charges are expected. Prosecutor Steve Mulroy said outside court that the bond was not warranted because of the violent nature of the alleged crimes.

The hours-long rampage prompted police to warn residents to evacuate, closing a baseball stadium and university campuses and suspending public buses as frightened residents wondered where the man might strike next. Kelly was arrested late Wednesday after crashing a stolen car while fleeing from police.

The violence unfolded just months after Kelly was released early from a three-year prison sentence for two shootings in 2020.

The carnage took place as the city was still reeling from the brutal murder of jock Eliza Fletcher, who was abducted during her dawn run less than a week earlier.

“This has been a horrible week for the city of Memphis,” said Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis.

Authorities did not provide an explanation Thursday for a possible motive. Nor did they say how Kelly obtained the weapon or weapons used in the attacks.

The Shelby County public defender’s office did not return a call seeking comment on Kelly’s case.

Memphis has also been rocked by other high-profile murders in recent weeks, including the shooting of a pastor during a carjacking on her street and the shooting of an activist during a dispute over money.

Mayor Jim Strickland told reporters Thursday he was outraged that Kelly had been released from prison early in March after pleading guilty last year to aggravated assault charges.

“This is no way to live and it’s not acceptable,” said Strickland, who later pounded the podium as he demanded accountability. He added: “If Mr Kelly had served his three-year sentence, he would still be in prison today and four of our fellow citizens would still be alive.”

In February 2020, Kelly, then 17, was charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder and other crimes in two shootings that happened within hours of each other. Both victims survived but did not cooperate with prosecutors, according to court records, and Kelly pleaded guilty to reduced charges of aggravated assault in April 2021.

Kelly was sentenced to three years in prison, but was released in March after serving just over two years behind bars, including credit for time served before his sentence.

Juvenile Court records reviewed by The Associated Press showed both shootings happened when it was dark outside and both victims were helping other people move. The shots came from a car with more than one person inside in both cases, records show.

The man who was shot in the chest testified that he was hit while trying to hide and the shooting lasted for five minutes. He positively identified Kelly in court, records showed.

“Given the defendant’s age, previous contacts with the Court and the nature of the offending acts, the Court does not believe that there is a specific time frame for the rehabilitation of the child using the procedures, services and facilities available to the Court in this situation. » the court order said.

Months before his release, Kelly was denied parole in September 2021.

Before that decision, he told a parole board hearing that he had dropped out of high school in the 11th grade because he had an anger management problem. In an assessment of the inmates’ risks and needs, a parole hearing official said he scored high on “violence,” according to a recording of the hearing.

“I went to manage my anger,” Kelly, then 18, told the hearing. “I didn’t know how to deal with it at the time because I was a teenager.”

He said he had been “connected” – that is, with a gang – but was no longer, saying, “as I got older, I separated myself from those types of groups.” He said he previously worked at a fast food restaurant and a poetry club.

At the time, his fiancee wrote a letter to parole officials, saying the couple had talked about Kelly going to trade school and starting a new life.

In recommending against parole, the hearing officer cited in part “the seriousness of your offending because someone was shot – I know you said you weren’t there – but you have the conviction”.

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

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