UPDATE: The Memphis officer has been upgraded from extremely critical to a stable condition.
This story has been updated to reflect the identity of the deceased man.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — One person is dead and a Memphis police officer was critically injured in a shooting Thursday afternoon at the Poplar-White Station library in East Memphis, police say.
Memphis Police responded to the library at 12:32. The male officer was taken to Regional One Hospital in “extremely critical condition” after the shooting. The other person was pronounced dead at the scene.
The incident started around noon when police responded to a trespassing call at a business in the 5100 block of Poplar, Keli McAlister with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said. Two officers later confronted the same man at the nearby library.
That’s when the man produced a weapon and fired at one of the officers. The other officer returned fire, killing the man, McAlister said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has identified the deceased man as Torence Jackson Jr. of Indianapolis, Indiana. Indiana state records show Jackson was arrested 32 times in Indiana since 2017 on various arson, drug, and intimidation charges.
No further information has been released.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he visited the officer’s family and other MPD officers Thursday afternoon.
“Please pray for the injured police officer. I spent the afternoon with the officer’s family, pastor and some co-workers, and they need to be uplifted in prayer too,” he said in a statement.
Congressman Steve Cohen also released a statement saying:
“While details are still emerging, I express my concern for the officer wounded in today’s incident, and I hope for a swift and full recovery. The level of violence in our city, which affects everyone from ordinary citizens to law enforcement officials, is unacceptable. I am determined to continue working with state, local and federal officials to improve public safety for all Memphians.”
The library is located at 5094 Poplar Avenue in front of Clark Tower, a busy commercial area filled with offices, restaurants, and retail nearby. It opened for programming at noon.
Witness Rubbie King said she went to the library Thursday to use the internet for work, and noticed police officers inside. When she turned on the lights in the library’s conference room, she says she heard five shots fired inside the library.
She looked out to see a woman hit the floor, screaming, and a man help her get up and take cover. That woman apparently was not shot.
Another witness said when he entered the library, he saw two officers talking to a man who was on a computer. When he went to go get a book, he overheard officers ask the man to take off his skull cap, which the man did. An officer asked the man to stand up and pulled something up on a phone.
That’s when the shooting took place, he said. The witness said he grabbed a woman who was screaming and helped her take cover behind the shelves.
He said he saw one officer administering aid to another officer, before library patrons were led to another room.
King said she did not see the shooter but saw officers guarding someone on the floor. An officer told that person to be still or the officer would “pop him again.”
King told us how she got out of the building.
“I did a quick assessment to see if there were any other persons with the weapon, I mean I did a quick scan of the area because where the study room is it’s all glass. I didn’t turn the light back off because if there was somebody else present and I turned that light off it would’ve been noticeable,” she recalled. “So, I kind of made my way around the room and then I went out the door. I didn’t run. I just walked out the door because I didn’t want to bring any attention to me leaving the library.”
Witness Andrea Sansone said she was driving to lunch across Poplar when she noticed a lady running out of the building with a child in her arms. The lady told Sansone there had been a shooting before getting in the car.
“The look of horror on her face just caught my attention,” she said.
Sansone said the woman told her she was about to walk into the library when she saw people running out of the building.
The library is closed until further notice. Library staff were evacuated and are in a safe place, according to an email sent to staff.
The officer-involved shooting comes one day after the funeral of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old who died after a traffic stop by Memphis police. The incident resulted in five officers fired and more under investigation, as well as calls for police reform.
“We need to be praying for our city,” Sansone said. “We need to be putting our armor on daily in this city. I love this city. I was born and raised in this city, so seeing things like this, it bothers me because we get a bad rap. It’s a really neat city and I would just say, continue to pray for it and pray fervently.”