Shannon Street Documentary: A Memphis Tragedy

Memphis police killed seven people in this home at 2239 Shannon St. in 1983, including the homeowner, Lindberg Sanders, after hostage Robert S. Hester was beaten to death. Courtesy photo

By Wiley Henry

MEMPHIS, TN – If you witnessed the 30-hour siege unfold on Shannon Street on January 11, 1983, or watched the tragedy in real time on TV, it would be dif cult to forget the aftermath.

That fateful day a tactical squad from the Memphis Police Department stormed the home of Lindberg Sanders and killed seven black men, including Sanders, after their hostage, of cer Robert S. Hester, was beaten and heard pleading for his life.

Hester and his partner, of cer Ray O. Schwill, were dispatched to the home at 2239 Shannon St. to investigate an alleged purse snatching. Schwill was shot but es- caped being collared.

Author James R. Howell, a former po- lice of cer, traced the siege from its begin- ning to the horri c outcome in the book “Echoes of Shannon Street.”

Inspired by Howell’s work, which was based on the case le, Marie Pizano, an au- thor, producer and director, felt compelled to produce a 90-minute documentary aptly titled “Shannon Street: Echoes Under a Blood Red Moon, a Memphis Tragedy.”

“It was my gut feeling that told me I had to do this,” said

Marie Pizano

Pizano, CEO/founder of MVP3 Entertainment Group, LLC, which produced the documentary. A Chicago na- tive, she moved to Memphis in 1999.

Accompanied by cinematographer and editor Keith Cadwallader, Pizano spent two years researching and interviewing police, stakeholders in the community, and the Sanders family.

No one from Hester’s family was avail- able for an interview, said Pizano, adding thatSchwilldidnotwanttobeapartofthe documentary. She said he was blamed for losing his partner.

“I had to let them all have a voice,” said Pizano, trying to strike a balance in the story. But then, she added, “Everybody was afraid to talk about it. Police were afraid to talk to me.”

Pizano was afraid at rst to reach out to Sanders’ wife, Dorothy Sander

s. She didn’t know how to approach her; she was devastated. Her children, too, were angry at one time, she said.

“When I called her and told her who I was, what I wanted to do, she was welcom- ing. She was a godly woman. [And] that fascinated me more,” said Pizano, who would break bread with the family.

She’d come to realize the Sanders fam- ily had built up resentment for the police and expressed by a daughter of Dorothy Sanders. “She was mad for a long time. [But] she was honest.”

After completing the research and in- terviews, Pizano crafted a narrative that looked at the tragedy from two perspec- tives: how it impacted the families of both the suspects and the police.

“It’s important for the documentary to share the truth from the voices of those in- volved,” she said.

The truth of the matter is Lindberg Sanders suffered from mental illness, said Pizano, arriving at this conclusion after speaking with the family and combing through police reports.

“The family will tell you that he did take medication,” she said. “But they will comebackandtellyouthathedidn’thave a mental illness.”

Pizano believes it was a foregone con- clusion within the MPD that mental illness sparked the chain of events, which would come to be called the “Shannon Street Massacre.”

The MPD now has a specially trained Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in place that handles individuals with mental ill- ness. Manned by volunteer of cers, the MPD responds to serious crises.

The massacre, however, still echoes to- day and conjures up ill feelings – particu- larly if there is a police-involved shooting and the victim is African American.

Such incidents are frequently captured by cell phones and posted on social media plat- forms.

“We don’t know what started the ght on Shannon Street,” said Pizano. “[How- ever], nobody wants to see this happen again.”

The lmmaker is hoping the documen- tary will heal festering wounds and bridge the oft-perceived rift between the police

and the African-American community.
A movie version of “Shannon Street” is also being developed. “The take away is, yes, you’re going to be mad, and you’re

going to be sad,” she said.
Proceeds will bene t the National Law

Enforcement Of cers Memorial Fund in memory of Of cer Robert S. Hester and the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

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