MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A violent weekend in Memphis leaves more families grieving. The hope for a new year with less violence isn’t happening so far.
Last year this time, Memphis Police investigated 52 murders. This year that number has reached 67.
One of those victims was Jaquise Bush. The 25-year-old coached little league football and had dreams of becoming a rapper with a positive message.
Family friend Keisha Spencer remembers Bush as an awesome young man.
“He had a smile that would light up the entire room,” she said.
Bush was killed last month when someone walked up to his car, opened the passenger door and fired seven shots. The motive still unknown, although Spencer has her suspicions.
“From my understanding, he was going to perform. Some people are jealous. Some people don’t want to see people win” Spencer told FOX13.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland blamed part of the murders on the easy access of guns when he appeared on FOX 13′s Good Morning Memphis.
“The vast majority of people involved in these shootings know each other. So that is a big part of this issue,” he said.
Strickland has promised to hire more police to fight crime but also said the pandemic is throwing a wrench in his plans to build up the force.
“I definitely think more police are needed,” said Spencer.
Strickland said his administration is trying to hire more officers. It was part of his re-election campaign promise.
Appearing on FOX 13′s Good Morning Memphis, Strickland said his administration was building up MPD, “but the pandemic and we have not been able to put as many people in a class because of social distancing and so forth.”
Memphis Police has 57 cadets in the current academy class and 44 rookie officers graduated in January.
“Now that we are getting out of this pandemic we are shooting for 100 officers in the class for this fall,” Strickland said.
That will be a challenge as FOX 13 Investigates reported last week, Memphis Police and other police department are struggling to find qualified recruits. According to documents from Memphis Police, 1802 people applied but only 53 candidates graduated from the academy.
It is why Spencer believes the issue with gun violence can’t be stopped by police alone.
“It really doesn’t matter the neighborhood you live in anymore because you are always hearing about a shooting and somebody was killed due to gun violence so I wish we could come together as communities,” she said.
Another factor is how hard it is to build up the police force. 122 officers retired last year.
Spencer believes this is a city and community problem that needs answers that are specific, loving, and tough.
“Put these guns away,” she said. “I don’t know if people are living in fear.”
She hopes maybe one of them will save a life like Jaquise Bush.
“All we know is that he is gone to heaven because we know the type of person he was here on earth,” she said.
FOX13 emailed Memphis Police to find out if any they have made any progress with the case. MPD says it is still under investigation.
Cox Media Group