A picture of a Memphis police officer holding up a sign inside the police station on Saturday night is going viral, and is starting a new conversation about the level of animosity towards law enforcement these days.
The image itself is simple, showing 46-year-old Memphis police officer Verdell Smith holding a sign that simply says “I Matter”.
What’s making the image go viral is that it’s the last photo the 18-year veteran of the police force ever took. He was killed in the line of duty stopping a gunman who had already wounded multiple people in downtown Memphis.
Justine Welch, 21, started his rampage by shooting two people inside a restaurant before fleeing to a nearby Bass Pro Shops and shooting an employee there. Welch then began walking down the street firing randomly at people in the area before stealing a car and speeding off.
Welch then stole a car and came speeding through the crowded downtown area, swerving onto a sidewalk to strike Smith, who colleagues say was trying to save other people first.
“He was trying to get individuals out of the way, because the car was moving very fast,” Memphis Police Association President Williams said. “It’s not going to be the same without him.”
MPD bow their heads for fellow officer Verdell Smith, killed while on duty working Beale Street Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/iZa3oK7ot0
— CAGrizPhoto (@CAGrizPhoto) June 5, 2016
Officer Smith leaves behind a fiancee and his son, who recently graduated.
“I am angry this morning — angry at the senseless loss of a dedicated public servant, and angry at the absolutely unacceptable level of violence in our city,” Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement Sunday morning. “We must not accept this as our norm. I most certainly will not, and I will continue to act to make our city safer.”
Rest in Peace, Officer Smith. You do matter.