The New York Time
s headline from January 13, 1983 read OFFICER KILLED, MEMPHIS POLICE SLAY SEVEN. The news of a routine Memphis police investigation that spiraled out of control spread quickly through America. The incident presaged numerous stories of tragic encounters between law enforcement and civilians, from the1993 massacre of Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas to the current flurry of racially charged shootings of black men by police. Although the Shannon Street Massacre, as it would come to be called, has faded from the public's memory, it has remained a subject of intense study by both law enforcement groups and independent scholars. For many Memphians, the incident has not faded from memory, says producer/director Marie Pizano. "It was kind of like 9/11, in that people remembered where they were when they heard it happened."
One of the people who never forgot was James Howell, a retired Memphis police officer who wrote Echoes of Shannon Street
. Pizano who moved to Memphis in 1999, was intrigued by the book's copious details. The former actress had turned to the financial industry after a life-threatening motorcycle wreck. She later drifted into managing musical artists, and became interested in filmmaking while working to license her client's songs for films. She worked as a producer on the Mob documentary Momo: The Sam Ginancna Story
, and got the bug to strike out on her own. Her production company recently put together the narrative feature film Shattered
, but Shannon Street
is Pizano's first foray into directing. “This was the first time I literally dove in and did it all myself,” she said. “The story intrigued me, not only because of the tragedy of the story, but because it’s what’s going on in our world today. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it...It intrigued me that something like this happened, and it’s still hurting people today. And no one talks about it. They just want to bury it.” "
Pizano spent two years researching and filming the documentary, with the help of cinematographer and editor Keith Cadwallader. The movie includes interviews from police, community leaders, and five members of the family of Lindberg Sanders, the eccentric—or possibly mentally ill—religious leader in whose home Patrolman R.S. Hestor was held hostage. Sanders and six others in the home were shot when police rushed the home after a 30-hour siege. Hestor was found beaten to death.
Unsurprisingly, none of parties agree on what actually went down that day. Pizano says her film tells all sides of the story in an effort to get to the truth. “I think it will give some answers to unanswered questions, and it will enlighten and surprise you about what all of the parties involved thought and felt. It will give you a perspective for a little bit of walking in someone else’s shoes, and why this happened.”
Shannon Street: Under A Blood Red Moon
opens at Studio on the Square today, January 6.