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Dec. 3, 2022

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Suspect in Memphis shooting rampage granted public defender

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man accused of killing four people and wounding three others in a livestreamed shooting rampage that paralyzed Memphis and led to a city-wide manhunt was granted a public defender during Friday morning court appearance and will remain jailed on a first-degree murder charge.

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

Additional charges are expected. District Attorney Steve Mulroy said outside court that bond is not warranted due to the violent nature of the alleged crimes.

The hours-long rampage had police warning residents to shelter in place, locking down a baseball stadium and university campuses and suspending public bus services as frightened residents wondered where the man might strike next. Kelly was arrested late Wednesday after crashing a stolen car while fleeing police.

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

The bloodshed played out as the city was still reeling from the brutal killing of jogger Eliza Fletcher who was abducted during her early morning run less than a week earlier.

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

Authorities offered no explanation Thursday of a possible motive. Nor did they say how Kelly managed to obtain the gun or guns used in the attacks.

Memphis has also been shaken by other high-profile killings in recent weeks, including the shooting of a pastor during a daylight carjacking in her driveway and the shooting of an activist during an argument over money.

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

“This is no way for us to live, and it is not acceptable,” said Strickland, who later pounded the podium as he demanded accountability. He added: “If Mr. Kelly served his full 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 committed a few hours apart. 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 he received for time he was jailed prior to his plea.

Months before his release, Kelly was denied parole in September 2021. He told the Tennessee Board of Parole that he had an “anger management problem,” according to a recording of his parole hearing, and that he was taking medication to help with nightmares.

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