A Memphis author and tenured professor at Lemoyne-Owen College is receiving backlash for comments about last week’s officer-involved shooting in Frayser.
Tom Graves teaches English at Lemoyne-Owen College, a historically-black college. In a Facebook post, he called Brandon Webber, the 21-year-old black man who was shot and killed by U.S. Marshal officers here last week, a “fucking idiot.”
“So let me get this straight,” Graves wrote. “A wanted felon who shot a guy five times was found in Frayser by U.S. Marshals. So, the fucking idiot tries to run over the Marshals with his vehicle then exits the car with a gun. So, the war he starts with a whole gang of U.S. Marshals, everyone an expert shooter ends with him dead as Dillinger.”
Graves then discusses the community uprising that ensued after the shooting, saying what happened next “makes me seethe.”
“A riotous crowd gathers and begins to harass and intimidate law enforcement on the scene,” Graves said. “Mayhem ensues. People get arrested. Asshole thugs in the crowd fire their weapons. Tear gas. Batons. Shields.”
Graves continues, criticizing activists and leaders like Tami Sawyer, who Graves said defended Webber.
“Others relate what a wonderful student he was,” Graves wrote of Webber. “His Facebook posts attest to thuggery, with him holding up fistfuls of cash, as if he were the king daddy pimp. Defending this man is wrong. He should be condemned for what he was and represented and did.”
See Graves' full post at the bottom of the page.
Many people took issue with Graves’s post. Some even called for his dismissal at the college:
In a comment on another one of his Facebook posts, Graves explained that his original post was only meant for his friends, but that it was screen-capped and shared around social media. Graves adds that he doesn’t “discuss this stuff with my students.”
“I don't discuss this stuff with my students — I teach them writing,” Graves said. “And I love and respect my students. I did not want all this to get so out of hand. Lots of folks black and white agree with my take on the Frayser incident.”
Terrell Lamont Strayhorn, vice president of academic and student affairs at LOC said via Facebook that the college is aware of the incident and is working to resolve it.
“Please know that posts made by individuals do NOT reflect the collective values and commitments of LeMoyne-Owen College,” Strayhorn said.
The LOC Student Government Associated sent a letter to Graves in response to his comments, calling them “appalling.” The students said they would like to “express our discontentment at the insincerity with which you commented on the Brandon Webber case.”
“While we agree that we do not have the facts of the case, we are in unanimous disagreement with your verbiage and disregard for the impact which your words would have on the community you serve,” the letter reads. “As a professor at a historically black college, you are keenly aware of the challenges unique to the black/African-American community.
Given the experiences of the students you teach, your implicit justification of the unfortunate events which happened have not been taken lightly.”
The students are calling for a public apology to the students and administration of the college and its stakeholders.