Memphis cop killer identified as officials call for tougher sentences

by Vern Evans

As the city of Memphis continues to battle soaring crime, officials are calling for tougher sentences following the death of a local police officer who died early Friday in a shootout with two teens, one of whom was arrested last month on weapons charges and subsequently let go without bond.

That suspect, 18-year-old Jaylen Lobley, was shot and killed by police after the pair opened fire on officers who were investigating a suspicious vehicle at Horn Lake Road and Charter Avenue in Whitehaven, about nine miles south of downtown Memphis.

Officer Joseph McKinney, 26, who joined the Memphis Police Department (MPD) in 2020, lost his life in the early-morning gunfire, and he is being remembered as a dedicated police officer who “exemplified the highest standards of courage,” the MPD said.


A second officer was also struck and is in non-critical condition, while a third officer was grazed by a bullet during the gunfire. A second suspect, a 17-year-old, was also shot and is expected to survive, police say. 

Lobley, whose mugshot has been obtained by Fox News Digital, was arrested in March in a stolen vehicle while armed with an illegally modified semi-automatic weapon with a Glock switch attached, police say. The Glock switch converted the weapon to a fully automatic machine gun. 

Lobley allegedly admitted to stealing two cars: a red Dodge Charger as well as a white Infiniti, Fox 13 Memphis reports, while police say that he had a programming device that is commonly used to steal cars.

But Lobley was cut loose on no cash bail, despite the district attorney’s office saying it had objections, labeling Lobley as a “high-risk offender.”

“Lobley was released in March on ROR (released on recognizance) with various conditions including reporting and curfew,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said in a statement Friday.

“This bond was granted by a Shelby County Judicial Commissioner following a hearing where our office strongly argued against lowering the bond, citing the defendant’s danger to the community. Despite our arguments, the Commissioner approved the ROR bond,” Mulroy said. 

“My office was actively prioritizing the Lobley case, identifying him as a high-risk offender … even though Lobley was a first-time offender, his case had been accepted for federal prosecution. This is consistent with my firm belief … that individuals found with stolen cars and guns, or found with Glock switches, can pose a danger and must be dealt with accordingly.”

Inset photo shows Memphis police officer Joseph McKinney and scene images, as well as Police Chief Cerelyn


Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., slammed the decision in a post on X. 

“Because of soft-on-crime policies like bail reform, a Tennessee police officer lost his life to a criminal who was put back out on the streets,” Blackburn wrote late Friday.

“Had he been in jail, this senseless murder would not have occurred.”

Memphis, like many other big cities across the U.S., is in the midst of a rising crime wave with a record-breaking 398 homicides in 2023.

Memphis Mayor Paul Young also called for harsher sentences as well as stricter gun laws. 

“We must demand tougher gun laws. We must demand sentencing that mirrors our love for our community. Sometimes, that love needs to be tough love,” Young said in a statement.

“Together, let’s petition our judges and the DA for stronger, swifter sentencing for violent offenses. If you are part of the judicial system, hear my voice first. We need to work together to do better for our community.” 

Meanwhile, Rep. John Rose, R-Tenn., said the state must do everything to protect those who serve, and hold those responsible for the tragedy to account.


Memphis police officer Joseph McKinney's car is covered with flowers

Tributes have been pouring in for McKinney, and the MPD on Saturday posted pictures to X of a memorial erected around his patrol car, with flowers and notes from friends and fellow officers who have come by to pay their respects.

“Thank you for all those who have come by to take the time to remember Officer McKinney,” the MPD wrote.

“The love that the community has shown is overwhelming. Officer McKinney was well-loved and respected and we will continue his work.”

“Officer Joseph McKinney exemplified the highest standards of courage and dedication, and his memory will forever inspire us to serve and protect our community honorably,” the department said in a statement. 

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