TBI investigating after Memphis police say they thwarted 'potential mass shooting' at Jewish school

Police shot the suspect during a traffic stop a few miles from the scene.

August 1, 2023, 10:44 AM

Tennessee's lead law enforcement agency is investigating an officer-involved shooting of a man who allegedly opened fire outside a Jewish school in Memphis on Monday afternoon.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced in a press release on Monday evening that it has launched a probe into the incident at the request of Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.

Preliminary information indicates that an armed man, whose identity has not yet been released, attempted to enter a school on South White Station Road in Memphis just before 12:30 p.m. CT. The man reportedly fired shots before driving away in a car, according to the TBI.

At approximately 1:30 p.m. CT, a Memphis police officer located the suspect's vehicle a few miles away on McCory Avenue. The driver reportedly got out of the car holding a gun and, "for reasons still under investigation, the officer fired his service weapon, striking the individual," the TBI said.

The man was subsequently transported by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment. No officers were injured in the incident, according to the TBI.

"TBI agents continue to work to independently determine the series of events leading to the officer-involved shooting, including collecting evidence and conducting interviews," the agency said. "Throughout the process, investigative findings will be shared with the District Attorney General for his review and consideration. The TBI acts solely as fact-finders in its cases and does not determine whether the actions of an officer were justified in these types of matters; that decision rests with the District Attorney General requesting TBI's involvement."

"The TBI does not identify the officers involved in these types of incidents and instead refers questions of that nature to the respective department to answer as it sees fit," the agency added.

Memphis police officers work the scene of an officer-involved shooting, July 31, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn.

Earlier Monday, Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said in a statement that her officers "mitigated a potential mass shooting situation."

Officers were dispatched to the Margolin Hebrew Academy-Feinstone Yeshiva of the South after receiving 911 calls about a gunman outside of the school, according to police.

The unidentified suspect allegedly tried to gain entry into the school and opened fire outside when he couldn't get in, police said. A screengrab from the school's security footage, obtained by ABC News, shows a man going through the pre-entrance doors holding what appears to be a handgun.

"Thankfully that school had a great safety procedure process in place and avoided anyone being harmed or injured at that scene," Memphis Police Assistant Chief Don Crowe said during a press conference on Monday afternoon.

The suspect fled the scene in a maroon pickup truck with California license plates, but school officials were able to provide officers with images of the man and a description of his vehicle. Officers were soon able to locate the suspect's vehicle and conducted a traffic stop about 3 miles from the school, according to police.

The suspect allegedly exited the vehicle with a handgun and an officer shot him. The suspect was taken to a hospital in critical condition, police said.

A screenshot from security footage at Margolin Hebrew Academy shows a suspect at the pre-entrance of the school.
Obtained by ABC News

The TBI was contacted to conduct an investigation "due to the suspect's condition and in accordance with policy," according to police.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Crowe declined to give details on what prompted the officer to fire their weapon or if the suspect fired any shots during the traffic stop.

"I personally truly believe we prevented a tragedy," the assistant police chief told reporters.

A source briefed on the probe told ABC News on Tuesday that a preliminary investigation confirmed the suspect had attended the school, suggesting the attack was targeted toward an official of the school or congregation and not motivated by hate or anti-semitism.

Detectives are now actively digging into the suspect's writings and psychiatric history as well as his relationships with people connected to the school and congregation. They have found social media posts connected to at least one leader of the school and congregation as well as others that indicate heightened "emotion" in recent days, according to the source.

Investigators do not believe the suspect was looking to attack other Jewish facilities in the community, the source said.

ABC News' Kerem Inal, Christopher Looft, Josh Margolin, Ivan Pereira and Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.

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