Since the founding of Memphis on May 22, 1819 by John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson, the “Bluff City” has seen its share of achievements and disasters. Memphis was named after the ancient city of Memphis, located on the Nile River in Egypt. It grew into a mecca for the cotton trade, and the population grew, and along with the growth came many obstacles and devastating events. One of these was the Sultana Disaster, which occurred on April 21, 1865, when the steamship Sultana sank just north of Memphis, with approximately 1,800 of her 2,427 passengers losing there lives. It was the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history, more costly than the sinking of the Titanic, Yellow fever visited Memphis several times in the 1800s, but the epidemic of 1878 was the worst, taking over 5,000 lives. On April 4, 1968, racial hatred reared its ugly head when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. He was in Memphis supporting the Sanitation Workers’ strike.
Another incident that changed Memphis, and how law enforcement in the U.S. handles hostage/barricaded subjects, occurred in January of 1983, when a police officer was held hostage on Shannon Street (actually Shannon Avenue) in Memphis. After 30 hours, members of the Memphis S.W.A.T. team entered the house, where patrolman Robert Hester was found beaten to death. During ensuing gun battle, seven religious cult members were killed inside the house. This incident caused many police departments to change their policies and procedures when handling these type situations.
Even though this particular incident occurred over 33 years ago, the city of Memphis is still haunted by the images of that situation. Because of its impact on America as a whole, Marie Pizano, decided that a book,“Echoes of Shannon Street: The Kidnapping and Murder of Officer Robert S. Hester,” written by retired Memphis police officer James R. Howell, should be made into a documentary film, as well a full feature film. Pizano who is the CEO of MPV3 Entertainment Group, took on this project, with the determination to show the complete true story of the police stand-off from everyone’s perspectives, including families and friends of the slain cult members. The filming of the documentary, whose title is “Shannon Street: Echoes Under A Blood Red Moon, a Memphis Tragedy,” is completed, and is scheduled to be released on May 6, 2016 at the Ridgeway Four Malco Theater in Memphis. Check for show times at the Malco website. The feature film is still in pre-production status. Also, in a press release from MVP3 Media Entertainment Group, the following quotes about the incident follows.
Alfonso Freeman “The Shannon Street tragedy bears more than an passing resemblance to issues we face today regarding crime within our inner-cities, mental illness, and police response. With the events that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri and other places, it makes one question if we have forgotten the lessons we learned so long ago, or if we have learned anything at all. It seems to me class remains open and we all need to pay better attention to the issues of poverty, mental illness, and the issues and concerns from and about law enforcement.”
Larry Godwin, Retired Director of MPD, Assistant Commissioner Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security “The Shannon Street incident was a barricade situation where two Memphis Police officers were taken hostage; one officer was murdered and the other badly injured. This was a horrible, heart wrenching incident, not only to members of the Memphis Police Department but also to the citizens of Memphis.
In order to change our nation, we must establish trust within our communities. If you have a disaster, man-made or natural the citizens are looking to us, the professionals, and the leaders of our respective departments for information. There is always that issue of trust being lost. What we don’t want is a public relations disaster.
Whether it is an officer involved shooting or a high profile homicide we must communicate factual information to the public. The bottom line is we must create reciprocal trust, partner with our citizens, and our customers in each of our communities. We are all in this together and we need each other in order to be successful. Police officers are our first line of defense with a duty to protect and serve and ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens. We must do a better job of getting the message out but in the end we can only do what the community allows us to do, to protect the citizens, establish trust, ensure proper training for our officers and openly communicate.”
Bill Luckett, Attorney, Mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi “Echoes of Shannon Street depicts an incident dating back to 1983 which on reflection served as an accurate harbinger of recent tragedies around our country. This movie , when made, will blend a mixture of race issues, mental illness, and difficult decision making into an entertaining and suspenseful drama.”
Please watch for additional information on the documentary and feature film by visiting Facebook: Echoes of Shannon Street – Movie: an MVP3 Production, the MVP3 Entertainment Group website, IMDb (Shannon Street: Echoes Under a Blood Red Moon) and Marie Pizano on LinkedIn. Also, If you don’t already subscribe to the Memphis Film Industry articles in the Examiner, you can do so by clicking on the subscribe link near the bottom of this page. This is a free internet publication, and you will be notified by email when a new article is published. But, until next time, “Keep those cameras rolling!”