Woman who worked to clean up Memphis streets dies in Raleigh shooting

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A woman who dedicated her time to ensuring that Memphians had cleaner streets and safer food to eat has died after being shot to death in Raleigh Saturday night.

Yveonne Nelson, 60, was the executive director of My Zip, an illegal dumping nonprofit.

She died after being shot multiple times around 11 p.m. on Yale Road on Saturday, August 13.

The moments leading up to her murder were all caught on surveillance video from a nearby convenience store. The video shows Nelson talking with the suspect. Then they both step out of frame. They step back in the frame, and then the suspect fires what appears to be a warning shot at the ground. You can actually see a puff of smoke when the bullet hits the ground. They then walk back out of the frame, and that’s when Nelson was allegedly shot and killed.

According to the Memphis Police Department, multiple witnesses saw the person who shot Nelson take off in a newer model black Infiniti sedan. Police released images of a woman who they named a person of interest in Nelson’s death.

FOX13 spoke with Nelson not two months before her death. She was critical of a team put together by the Memphis City Council to tackle the blight problem in the Bluff City. Nelson, instead, emphasized a need for re-education and investing in the city.

“It’s not going to help until they re-educate these people,” Nelson said of the city council’s attempt to clean up Memphis streets. “They’re throwing their trash out their windows while they’re driving. We’ve got to stop this.”

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Nelson believed that the money spent on the city council’s task force would be better spent in the city.

“Put that money out here in the community and help us make Memphis the city it needs to be,” Nelson said in June of 2022.

That was far from Nelson’s first attempt to make a difference. In October of 2018, FOX13 caught up with the My Zip executive director as she shed light on unsanitary conditions at a local Kroger.

Pictures Nelson took of a Kroger on Shelby Drive in Whitehaven got the attention of the Shelby County Health Department.

“Why are you taking the community’s money and not giving the community a quality product?” Nelson said. “I have a problem with that. My Zip has a problem with that.”

SEE MORE: Mid-South residents voice concerns over local Kroger conditions

The health department visited that Kroger two days after the nonprofit shared their concerns, leading to 10 violations including flies in the meat prep area, dirty shelves in the meat department, flies in the deli and dirty floors in the bakery area.

“It’s so disheartening,” Nelson said in 2018 of her local grocery store. “It really is a vast difference when I shop here, when I shop across stateline, when I shop in East Memphis.”

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“I want her to be remembered for her smile, her style and swag,” said Pearl Walker.

For the last thirty years, Nelson worked to tell the stories of Whitehaven and advocate for cleaning up Memphis as a whole. But for the last ten, she became a good friend to Walker, a community supporter and founder of I Love Whitehaven Neighborhood and Business Association.

“Passionate, serious, very intelligent and interesting and a phenomenal woman who really loved this community,” Walker said.

Walker said Nelson was turning 61 later this month on August 31.

“I think that the whole city needs to be up in arms because we are being robbed of many of the gems that are sacred to our community and those are the women who have put the issues of our communities on their backs,” Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis) said.

For Lamar, Nelson was more than just a constituent. She was someone who was an advocate and leader.

“I’ve always known her to be someone who cares about the community, cares about her neighborhood, very smart and intelligent,” said Lamar. “She cared deeply in her city, and to know that she lost her life so tragically in a city that she invested so much into is really heartbreaking.”

“I don’t wanna think about it, but I have thought about what her last moments were, having died the way she did, her final moments,” Walker said.

It’s something that Walker said brings some concern.

“It brings particular concern for women in the community and mature-aged women, and if there is a perception out there that we’re more vulnerable, it’s making us seem perceived as the more likely target for all of this,” Walker said.

If you know who the woman in the surveillance video is or anyone else who may be connected to this homicide, Memphis Police urge you to call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.

Any information which leads to an arrest in this case could be worth up to $2,000.