Below is an email from JoNina Ervin, acting chairperson of the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation, a police oversight organization. She writes regarding recent police killings in Memphis, including a man who was fatally shot while sleeping in his car.
The two white Memphis cops who shot a 24-year-old black man to death on Jan. 17 of this year after he had fallen asleep in his car will not be prosecuted and have returned to active duty.
The autopsy report on Steven Askew and the Memphis Police Dept.'s internal affairs report of his death were released last week to the news media--seven months after Askew was killed while sleeping in his car waiting for his girlfriend to come home from work. In a blatant effort to discredit a lawsuit that the Askew family is expected to file against the MPD, the medical examiner claims that at the time of his death, Askew was legally drunk, had marijuana in his system, and pointed a gun at MPD officers Ned Aufdenkamp and Matthew Dyess, who shot Askew to death. Askew had a permit to carry a gun.
It is important to know that Aufdenkamp and Dyess were called to the apartment complex where Askew's girlfriend lived to investigate a disturbance. The cops admit Askew was asleep, so it's unlikely he was the cause of the disturbance. Why then did the cops bother him?
What exists in Memphis is a clear-cut pattern of conspiracy between the MPD and the medical examiner's office to discredit the character of people shot to death by the police in order to cover up the true circumstances of their deaths and to discourage the families of the victims from suing the police.
The cover-up of Steven Askew's death is at least the third time in a year that the MPD and the medical examiner's office have engaged in this kind of conspiracy and cover-up. Lorenzo Davis, 28, was beaten to death by MPD officers on July 3, 2012. After family members of Davis questioned the circumstances of his death, the medical examiner released an autopsy report claiming that Davis died of a cocaine overdose, which caused him to resist arrest and sustain injuries from the police.
On April 5, of this year, George Golden, 42, died from injuries he sustained on March 27 after he was shot, kicked and beaten by two Memphis police officers who claimed he was shoplifting from a Walmart store. After Golden's family hired a lawyer and threatened to sue the cops, the medical examiner released an autopsy report which alleged cocaine "intoxication" was a major cause of Golden's death.
The only way to get at the truth of the deaths of Steven Askew, Lorenzo Davis and George Golden is for coroner's inquests to be held in each of the three cases. At an inquest, the police who killed these three men can be required to testify under oath. In Tennessee, two people who believe a person died under suspicious or questionable circumstances may ask for a coroner's inquest. The people requesting an inquest can be, but do not have to be related to the deceased. You do not have to be a lawyer to ask for an inquest.
Anyone who is interested in getting coroner's inquests into the deaths of any of the 21 people killed by Memphis police since February 2012, may contact the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation at (901)674-8430 or email
Peace and love,
JoNina Ervin, Acting Chair
Memphis Black Autonomy Federation