Memphis Branch NAACP President Van Turner Jr. said there is “concern” about Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich’s decision to recuse her office from the prosecution of the security guard that killed Alvin Motley Jr.
“We are not sure that a prosecutor coming from any other place in Tennessee will fully appreciate what this case means to the residents of Shelby County,” Turner told The New Tri-State Defender on Friday.
Motley, 48, was visiting from Chicago on Aug. 7 when he was fatally shot by a security guard at the Kroger Store fuel center at 6660 Poplar Ave., near the Memphis-Germantown city limits. Gregory Livingston, 54, has been charged with second-degree murder. He is being held in the Shelby County Jail on $1.8 million bond.
Livingston’s next court date is Monday, Aug. 16.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Motley’s family, said in a press conference earlier this week that the fatal shooting amounts to “another unarmed, Black person killed, profiled because of the color of his skin.”
Weirich announced Thursday via a prepared statement the decision to remove her office from the case.
“Today I learned an investigator in this office had an off-duty job with Allied Security and might be a witness in the prosecution of Gregory Livingston,” Weirich said in the statement. “The investigator has been put on leave without pay for failing to notify me of this immediately.
“I do not want anything to cast a shadow over the pursuit of justice so I am recusing our office. I have spoken to Mr. Crump, the family’s attorney, and have asked the District Attorney’s conference to appoint a special prosecutor.”
Detailing the concern of the Memphis Branch NAACP, Turner said, “We are not sure that a prosecutor coming from any other place in Tennessee will fully appreciate what this case means to the residents of Shelby County. …
“Shelby County is diverse, and unlike any other county in the state. No matter what county a special prosecutor comes from, they will not have the feel for what this case means to us here.”
The NAACP, said Turner, will “do everything in our power to make sure this special prosecutor knows that justice must be served, not only for the Motley family, but also for the people of Shelby County. … If that means more press conferences, or marches and other protests, then that is what we will do. We will make sure justice is served.”
Motley was riding with friends, loud music blasting from the car when Livingston approached the car and demanded they turn it down. There was an exchange of words, according to witnesses.
Motley exited the car, with a beer and a cigarette, saying to Livingston that the two should discuss the matter “like men.” Witnesses told police Motley was not physically threatening and that he was not holding a weapon when Livingston pulled a gun and shot him in the chest.
Afterwards, police were called by Livingston saying that he had shot a man. Motley was lying on the pavement, unresponsive, when police arrived.
A spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation said Livingston “was not and is not licensed as a security guard.”
Kroger on Tuesday released a statement noting that Livingston was not employed by the company but a third-party contractor to provide security services at the Poplar Avenue Fuel Center.
“We are deeply saddened, extremely angry and horrified by this senseless violence. Our hearts are with the Motley family.”
The third-party contractor – Allied Universal – is an international security company. Allied Universal reportedly has cut ties with an unidentified subcontractor that the company said hired Livingston.
A Horn Lake, Mississippi police officer for three years, Livingston resigned from the force in 2001. At the time of Motley’s killing, Livingston was not a licensed armed security guard, having not completed an application process for state certification.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Crump was direct.
“…There is no question in my mind that this crime was racially motivated and a white person playing loud music in similar circumstances would be alive.”
Crump was joined by dignitaries and concerned community activists from across the city Tuesday. Presiding Bishop Henry M. Williamson Sr. of the First Episcopal CME District called the killing of “unarmed black men and women” a plague in the streets of America.
Turner, who is also a member of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, spoke at the press conference.
Amplifying on the Memphis Branch NAACP’s view that it is doubtful that someone not from the local area can adequately represent the diverse, multicultural population of Shelby County, Turner on Friday said, “We are determined to make sure our voices are heard. …
“Of course, I don’t mean by protests any destructive or unlawful behavior, but we are willing to march and to hold public meetings for justice in this case.”