Dewayne Tunstall aspired to own a food truck and planned to name it “EBE,” inspired by the phrase he lived his life by: “Everybody eats,” his friend Marcus Cash told CNN affiliate WMC.
But early Wednesday morning, Tunstall was shot to death while visiting Cash’s home, becoming the first victim in a violent shooting that gripped the city of Memphis until the suspect was taken into custody later that night.
The shooting came just days after the body of Eliza Fletcher, a Memphis teacher who was kidnapped last Friday and killed, was found. The string of deadly attacks across the city over the past week has sparked anger and fear from city leaders, who say the violence is unacceptable.
The shooting suspect, 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly, appeared for the first time Friday in a Shelby County courthouse on a first-degree murder charge.
Kelly was charged with the murder of Tunstall, the first victim of the shooting spree. Authorities say the 1 a.m. shooting that left Tunstall dead set off a series of other shootings across the city that left three more people dead and three others injured.
Kelly, who was escorted by sheriff’s deputies to the courtroom, was in shackles and wearing a navy blue jail uniform and black face mask. He spoke briefly to answer the judge’s questions and made no statement about his innocence.
Judge Karen L. Massey appointed a public defender to represent Kelly and set the next hearing for September 13. He is being held without bond at the Shelby County Jail, records show.
Additional charges are expected, according to police.
The search for Kelly, also known as “Zeek Huncho,” prompted a shelter-in-place order in part of the city and the temporary suspension of bus and streetcar services in the area.
Officers responded to the first shooting of the afternoon at 4:38 p.m. and found a man in his car with multiple gunshot wounds, according to police. Minutes later, police said they found a woman in a different location with a gunshot wound to her leg.
Kelly was reportedly broadcasting on Facebook Live when he opened fire inside a store more than an hour later, according to Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a man who had been shot and taken to hospital in critical condition.
According to police, officers then went to three other locations, where they found a man and two women who had been shot. The man was taken to a hospital in non-critical condition, Davis said, but both women died. The attacker allegedly stole an SUV from one of the women, he said.
The vehicle was located a few minutes later on I-55 after Kelly was found to be a hit-and-run in the victim’s Dodge Challenger, police said. After a high-speed chase, Kelly was taken into custody. Two weapons were identified in the car at the time of his arrest, Davis said.
Although the motive for the violence is still unclear, the city of Memphis must now recover from the violent attack on several members of its community.
Tunstall’s friends remember him as a young man who had ambitious dreams and a generous spirit.
“He was very sweet. He wanted to get out of here. He wanted to make it big. He wanted to make it big in music. He pushed all his friends to do better,” said Tunstall’s friend, Princess Onwubiko, to CNN affiliate WHBQ.
Memphis Mayor Regrets Suspect’s Early Release From Jail
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland shared his “deepest sympathy” for the victims and their loved ones and condemned the violent attacks in a statement Wednesday night, arguing they could have been preventable were it not for the holes in the criminal justice system.
“I am angry for them, and I am angry for our citizens who had to shelter in place for their own safety until this suspect was captured. This is no way to live and it is not acceptable,” Strickland said.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland speaks during a news conference early Thursday.
Kelly was released from jail in March after serving 11 months of a three-year sentence for aggravated assault. He had initially faced more serious charges in a 2020 case in Shelby County, including attempted murder, reckless endangerment and use of a firearm with intent to commit a dangerous crime, according to court records, but only He pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor aggravated assault.
“If Mr. Kelly had served his entire three-year sentence, he would still be in prison and four of our fellow citizens would still be alive,” Strickland stated.
In his statement, the mayor urged that “these evil actions demonstrate why truth in sentencing is a must,” referring to a new law in Tennessee that will require those convicted of some violent crimes to serve their full sentence in prison.