MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The sister of an ex-convict charged with fatally shooting a Memphis police officer during a struggle says her brother was just trying to defend himself because the officer was manhandling him and being too aggressive.

Callie Watkins, 28, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that her brother, 29-year-old Tremaine Wilbourn, told her during a phone conversation after the shooting but before his arrest that he was forcibly pulled out of a car by Officer Sean Bolton on Saturday night. Police have said that Bolton approached the 2002 Mercedes Benz on foot after pulling up in his squad car and that it was parked illegally during a drug deal.

Watkins said her brother described the officer putting Wilbourn in a hold and telling him to put his arms up. But, she said, Wilbourn told the officer that he couldn’t because his arms were restrained. That’s when the scuffle escalated, she said.

Police said Wilbourn took out a gun and shot Bolton multiple times. Bolton died at a hospital.

“He needed to defend himself,” Watkins said. “It’s self-defense against an aggressive officer. It was kill or be killed.”

Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said that she did not want to “entertain that comment” and that the evidence will speak for itself. Police have said Wilbourn got out of the car, confronted Bolton, and they got into a physical struggle.

Watkins said her brother did not own a gun, and she does not know where he got it. She said they were adopted along with other siblings when they were children, and her brother liked to play basketball and football in their neighborhood. She said they have the same mother but different fathers, and that’s why they don’t have the same last name.

“He wasn’t a bad kid,” she said. “He was a people person.”

Bolton, who was white, was the third Memphis officer to be fatally shot in slightly more than four years. Wilbourn is black.

Hundreds of Bolton’s friends and family, as well as police and firefighters, gathered at a church for a memorial service to honor the former Marine on Wednesday afternoon. A “Sea of Blue” procession of police officers was to ride through parts of the city, including the shooting scene, after the memorial. A funeral service and burial are scheduled for Thursday.

Bolton, who served in Iraq, was a strong but shy man who did not like physical confrontation, his family and friends said this week. They said he liked working out, reading history books and watching Police Academy movies with his buddy.

“Sean genuinely wanted to help all Memphians to live safely and peaceably within our community,” the statement said. “Sean’s concern, his only concern, was not the color of the skin of the person he was dealing with but rather whether or not they were committing a crime.”

Community members and businesses have honored Bolton in different ways. Firefighters placed a memorial sign in front of a fire station and a restaurant reserved a table for Bolton the day after the shooting. A bicycle club also was making a silent ride through parts of the city Wednesday.

In the parking lot of the church where the memorial service was held, two red Memphis fire trucks were parked, ladders extended, with a large American flag tied to the end of the ladders. Police cars from as far as Cincinnati, Ohio, and Oxford, Mississippi, were seen in the parking lot.

Police say Wilbourn turned himself in to authorities Monday, ending a two-day manhunt after the death of Bolton, 33. He appeared briefly in court via video link Wednesday and told a judge he does not yet have a lawyer. The judge scheduled a hearing for Aug. 12 to see whether a lawyer has been hired or a public defender will be appointed. He’s being held on $10 million bond.

Wilbourn was on probation for an armed bank robbery. He was sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison and released on probation in July 2014. Wilbourn used marijuana in December 2014 and was ordered to undergo mental health treatment July 7, according to federal court documents.

It’s not clear whether Wilbourn was ever evaluated, but his sister said her brother was troubled because he “lived in a box” for so long.

“If you are a real human being, jail is not for you,” she said. She also said her family was trying to hire a lawyer.

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27 thoughts on “Suspect In Memphis Cop Killing Says He Acted In Self-Defense

  1. DougEl on said:

    It is entirely possible that suspect in this case could reasonably have feared for his life when the cop was shot, the same way the police say they feared for their lives when they shoot Black people, especially with the current epidemic of Black people being killed by the police.
    Although self-defense is almost never a successful defense at trial in the case of a person charged with killing a police officer, it could in fact be that he thought he had to “kill or be killed.” IJS

    • Michael Briwn was murdered. Why do you think people reacted the way they did? I will tell you it because over a dozen people witnessed him being gunned down and that is why the people were so upset. Those two white witnesses lied. Please educate yourself about this issue. They wanted to make it seem like his life did not matter but it did matter to the people in the LOU

    • Doug El,
      I totally agree with what you said.

      I do not know if this young man is telling the truth but the scenario definitely could have played out just as he said.

      As you said, there is a widespread of Blacks being unjustly murdered by the police without any consequences. This young man knew that. He was fully aware of his criminal background. Perhaps he also knew he did not want to become another statistic.

      Of course, he could be lying too but no one knows but he and that officer…unless there is a witness that has yet to become known. (?)

      • specialt757 on said:

        Keeba, he was a passenger in a 2002 Mercedes, the driver turned himself in earlier and was released that’s how they found out who he was. At least that is what was reported in an earlier report.

      • Thanks, SpecialT.
        I wonder if anything he said supports what Wilbourn said. (?)
        As you said, we might never know the facts.

  2. Johhny on said:

    What ever happened to comply with a police officer. Even if he was manhandled he could have filed a complaint with internal affairs. As African Americans we have to realize we don’t run anything. When it comes to the law and your rights find out what the Constitution says.There are two sides to every story. The officer is dead and he is in jail.Question why did he run if he was in the right

  3. I dont dispute wilmors account because cops lie and if it came down to his life vs cops he had to do what he thought was good for him. Nit condining a life lost but i can believe the cop had his weapon drawn and that mans life was in danger because too many black children dont get to see the courthouse steps anymore since they are not jailing for life these infractions.

    • Eye witnesses lie just as bad as cops Michael Brown witnesses stated he was shot on the ground as the officer stood over him, or my favorite “he had his hands up walking backwards and the cop shot him” so it works both ways, young black men have far more to fear from other YBM that cops on any day just look at death rates in Chicago, B-more

    • What difference does it make? Convicted felon high profile senseless murder
      Im sure the DA wants to stick a needle in his arm, just like the guy that kidnaped and held the three women for 10 years once reality set in they found him swinging
      suicides in prisons and jails are not as uncommon as one may think in spite of what
      one may lead us to think

  4. See how sad and ridiculous we are!! So its OK if a cop dies by a criminal because then you know the criminal is a criminal BUT if the cop had shot this piece of shigady in “self defense” then there must be questions??? This is why criminals know Black Lives Matter is FOR THEM!!!! Someone wondered why Prairie View wasn’t issuing statements in defense of Sandra Bland?. Maybe because they hired a fool who would have been high as a kite around college KIDS????? ALL MY JOBS ran background/credit checks and if they saw all my legal drama/fines etc.like Sandra I would not have been hired!!! I know I know standards are lower for us black folk…..

  5. MacBen on said:

    There is no self-defense plea against a police officer in the performance of their duties. This officer did not have his weapon drawn nor did he make it to the suspect vehicle before he was shot.

  6. akash on said:

    IIIIIuptil I looked at the draft which had said $7479 , I be certain that…my… sister was like realy bringing home money part time on there computar. . there aunt started doing this 4 less than twenty months and resantly paid the debts on their condo and got themselves a Smart ForTwo . see here …. See More

  7. specialt757 on said:

    Yes we all know police lie regularly and have other cops back their lies, (the “tazer” lie, and the “he dragged me” lie) so they are all suspect. But until all the facts are out (which we may never know) I still think shooting, and subsequently killing the cop was not his best decision, and then fleeing too. He better have a GREAT lawyer. People need to think consequences before they act.

  8. I dont trust the cops either …. but shooting and killing one is a different story. Wilbourn will need a much better defense than that or he is going to be serving a life sentence.

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