The man who shot and killed a police officer in Memphis this weekend is a 29-year-old convicted bank robber, local authorities said Sunday.
Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said that Officer Sean Bolton was shot after he approached an illegally parked car and broke up what looked to be a drug deal, according to The New York Times.
As Officer Bolton walked toward the car, a 2002 Mercedes-Benz, a passenger got out and confronted him, reports The Associated Press.
There was “some type of physical altercation,” said Director Armstrong, and the passenger shot at Officer Bolton multiple times. Bolton later died.
Bolton, who had been with the city police department since 2010, was a former US Marine and served in Iraq, according to the director.
The shooter has been identified by police as Tremaine Wilbourn, who is now wanted in a manhunt for first-degree murder and who has been described as “armed and dangerous,” reported the Times. The US Marshals Service is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
Mr. Wilbourn had been serving a federal sentence of more than 10 years for a bank robbery, said Armstrong. He had been set free by the US Western District Court on supervised release, according to USA Today.
After the attack, Wilbourn and the driver fled the scene, but the driver later turned himself in to police. The AP reports that he was released without being charged.
Officers who searched the car found about 1.7 grams of marijuana in the car, said Armstrong.
Holding up a photo of Wilbourn, the director said, “I think it's safe to say that when you look at this individual, you're looking at a coward. He's a coward. You gunned down, you murdered a police officer, for less than 2 grams of marijuana. You literally destroyed a family."
As police officers kicked off their manhunt earlier in the day, Armstrong said that once again, the city’s police department is grieving.
Arriving with an armored truck and clad in protective vests, officers burst into an apartment complex in southeast Memphis about three miles from the scene of the shooting, reported the AP.
"Sadly to say, we've been here before,” said the director, who told reporters the incident "is just a reminder of how dangerous" the job is.
Bolton is the third police officer to be gunned down in Memphis in just over four years. In July 2011, Officer Tim Warren was killed while responding to a shooting at a downtown Memphis hotel. In December 2012, Officer Martoiya Lang was killed while serving a warrant.
Mayor A C Wharton also joined Armstrong in calling for prayers for the officer's family, the Memphis police department, and the city.
Like the police director, he said that the police shootings pointed to the access that too many criminals have to guns, according to the AP.
"The men and women in blue have certain rules of engagement that they have to follow, but at any given minute in a 24-hour day they're dealing with folks who have no rules of engagement," Mayor Wharton said.
“This is my third time in four years, and it doesn't get any easier,” Armstrong said.