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Institute for Public Service Reporting – Memphis

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Family of Jaylin McKenzie Seeks Evidence, Transparency in Police Shooting

The family of Jaylin McKenzie, a 20-year-old man shot and killed by Memphis police during a traffic stop six months ago, is pushing for more transparency from the MPD.

Family of Jaylin McKenzie Seeks Evidence, Transparency in Police Shooting

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This story is in partnership with WKNO-FM.

The family of Jaylin McKenzie, a 20-year-old man shot and killed by Memphis police during a traffic stop six months ago, is pushing for more transparency from the MPD, which has not yet released video footage, case files or other evidence.

Friends and family participate in a June 16 rally for Jaylin McKenzie
Friends and family participate in a June 16 rally for Jaylin McKenzie. Laura Kebede/Institute for Public Service Reporting

McKenzie’s family and activists held a rally on June 10th that started in front of the Mt. Moriah police station. Each car had flags that said “Families against police brutality. Justice for Jaylin McKenzie.” Protest leaders took turns leading chants and sharing the family’s demands.

The procession headed to American Way Park, where people gathered for yoga, food, music, and a lantern release. The park is just across the street from where the shooting happened in December. Officials say McKenzie and two other men fled on foot from a traffic stop. An officer – quote– “exchanged gunfire” with McKenzie, who was killed.

But a lawyer for McKenzie’s family, Andrew M. Stroth of Action Injury Law Group in Chicago, says police have provided no evidence of what happened that night.

“Our perspective is simple,” says Stroth. “The family demands to see the video, the family demands to get the name of the officer, the family demands to see the police report. These are basic things that across the country that should be shared. Tyre Nichols was killed and murdered by the police in this same town, yet the video was shared almost immediately.”

McKenzie’s shooting occurred three weeks before Memphis police beat Tyre Nichols to death. Videos of THAT incident were released within the month. McKenzie, a resident of Atlanta, was visiting family here for the holidays.

Stroth says the lack of information is concerning.

“Number one: there was no video shared,” he says. “Number two: The police came out with a tweet immediately that said shots were fired at the officers yet there wasn’t a gun recovered. There wasn’t bullet casings. All we have is the police narrative.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says its investigation is still ongoing. District Attorney Steve Mulroy’s office said they have requested another review of forensic reports. The Memphis Police Department told the Institute for Public Service Reporting that it could provide a copy of the police report, but has not yet done so. The city Mayor’s Office did not return a request for comment, nor has it responded to attorney Stroth.

“The citizens deserve the right to see the evidence,” says Stroth.

Since last June, at least ten people have been shot by members of Shelby County law enforcement, according to TBI. Six of them died. Jaylin McKenzie’s mother, Ashley McKenzie Smith says the lack of information is disheartening.

“If you had this many murders, this many traffic stops that are turning deadly, there’s a system problem,” said Smith. “And to address that, you know, the community has to come together and they can’t be scared.”

Friends and family of Jaylin McKenzie are calling for more transparency in the police shooting.
Friends and family of Jaylin McKenzie are calling for more transparency in the police shooting. Laura Kebede/Institute for Public Service Reporting

Friday, June 16th marked six months since police killed McKenzie. About 70 activists and community members joined the rally on June 10. The family’s law firm has threatened litigation over further delays in information.

Laura Kebede-Twumasi is coordinator of The Institute’s Civil Wrongs project exploring racial injustice in Memphis and the Mid-South. She is a corps member of Report for America and covered education in Memphis for several years for Chalkbeat Tennessee.

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