AFRICANGLOBE – The sister of a man charged with fatally shooting a Memphis police officer during a struggle says her brother was just trying to defend himself because the officer was manhandling him and being too aggressive.
Callie Watkins, 28, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that her brother, 29-year-old Tremaine Wilbourn, told her during a phone conversation after the shooting but before his arrest that he was forcibly pulled out of a car by Officer Sean Bolton on Saturday night. Police have said that Bolton approached the 2002 Mercedes Benz on foot after pulling up in his squad car, and that it was parked illegally during a made-up drug deal.
Watkins said her brother described the officer putting Wilbourn in a hold and telling him to put his arms up. But, she said, Wilbourn told the officer that he couldn’t because his arms were restrained. That’s when the scuffle escalated, she said.
Police said Wilbourn took out a gun and shot Bolton multiple times. Bolton died at a hospital.
“He needed to defend himself,” Watkins said. “It’s self-defense against an aggressive officer. It was kill or be killed.”
Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said that she did not want to “entertain that comment” and that the evidence will speak for itself. Police have said Wilbourn got out of the car, confronted Bolton, and they got into a physical struggle.
Watkins said her brother did not own a gun, and she does not know where he got it. She said they were adopted along with other siblings when they were children, and her brother liked to play basketball and football in their neighborhood. She said they have the same mother but different fathers, and that’s why they don’t have the same last name.
“He wasn’t a bad kid,” she said. “He was a people person.”
Bolton, who was white, was the third Memphis officer to be fatally shot in slightly more than four years.
Hundreds of Bolton’s friends and family, as well as police and firefighters, gathered at a church for a memorial service to honor the former Marine on Wednesday afternoon. A “Sea of Blue” procession of police officers was to ride through parts of the city, including the shooting scene, after the memorial. A funeral service and burial are scheduled for Thursday.
Police say Wilbourn turned himself in to authorities Monday, ending a two-day manhunt after the death of Bolton, 33. He appeared briefly in court via video link Wednesday and told a judge he does not yet have a lawyer. The judge scheduled a hearing for Aug. 12 to see whether a lawyer has been hired or a public defender will be appointed. He’s being held on $10 million bond.
By: Adrian Sainz
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