On August 1, 2015, one life was taken, and mine was changed. Memphis Police Department lost one of it’s finest, Officer Sean Bolton. I had been working with other police and fire families to try to restore our benefits when he was killed. We were at a friend’s house. (One who just happened to serve with Sean in Iraq). We were watching the Rhonda Rousey fight. I had to google that because the fight would never be seen that night. Phones all over the room go off. Officer down! The panic ensues, and everyone scrambles to text officers they know are on duty. One by one we hear back. Then the news breaks in and it is announced it is Officer Sean Bolton. The look on my friend’s face said it all. He knew him. And he knew him well.
My phone goes off and it from a medic..he’s gone. Telling my friend that his friend survived Iraq to come home to Memphis to be killed was life changing for me. I now see what these families go through when officers go out and even worse when one goes down.
The days to follow were full of tears, seas of blue, and manhunts. Tony Armstrong, then MPD director really showed what a leader he truly was during those days. "He's a coward," Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said during a news conference Sunday. "You gun down — you murder — a police officer for less than 2 grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor citation and a fine."
It unfortunately wasn’t just a misdemeanor as we would later find out, but Director Armstrong was right about one thing…..He WAS and STILL IS a COWARD!
There has been speculation through the years about what went on that night and now there is no question as to what happened that night. Fast forward 2018. Shelby County Criminal Court Division 7. The State of Tennessee v. Tremaine Wilbourn is now in the hands of the jury. Stop now if you cannot handle details of what really happened that night.
When I first see Wilbourn I notice they have tried to make him look like less of a monster by pulling his hair back, dressing him up a little, and putting some brand-new glasses on him. Normally, he may pass as a respectable member of society, but as soon as his lawyer speaks to ask for the dismissal of 1st degree murder charges, the judge reminds him of what a monster he really is. I do not remember his entire speech, I just remember him telling him how cruel he was to Sean. He recapped what happened. Tremaine and some associates were sitting in a car illegally parked. Sean made the scene and took out his flashlight. Read that again…..took out his flashlight. Not his GUN his FLASHLIGHT and approached the car.
Remember those “routine” traffic stops people like to mention? Yeah here is where it is not so routine and remember this truth, there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. Other passengers in the car decide to run for it. Not Tremaine. See despite being a convicted felon, He is carrying a 9mm and he has decided he is NOT GOING BACK TO JAIL. As Sean goes to get him from the car a scuffle ensues, and shots are fired, 11 to be exact. All by Wilbourn.
Shot one hits in the face. By shot three is on the ground with his hands over his face. Wilbourne steps back and fires again and again and again….hitting him all around his body armor. Sean NEVER reached for his weapon. His weapon and all bullets were accounted for. His gun was never ready for discharge. It could have been anyone that night. It happened to be Sean. The judge reminds him that medics had to hold Sean’s face together in order to even try to help him. Wilbourne executed Sean in cold blood. Sean had a flashlight.
Therefore, he is a coward. Wilbourne has the guts to be a criminal, but he doesn’t have the guts to pay the price. He has his lawyers trying to convince a jury death is not warranted for him. Live by the sword, die by it right? You kill an officer, carjack a vehicle, and turn yourself in three days later just to tell director Armstrong you are not a coward. Yes Sir you are. Your lawyer proudly admitted, “he admits to killing Officer Bolton” but then explains that 1st degree isn’t warranted. Be a man, face the fate you dealt out to a son, brother, and friend. Be the MAN you say you are and MAN up to face your consequences.
Do not beg for your life, you sure didn’t give Sean the opportunity to beg for his. Seeing Sean’s body in the Medical Examiner’s report brought an intense amount of anger in me. I turned and looked at Sean’s brother and wondered how he was remaining so calm? What a strong family Sean comes from. I was mere feet away from this admitted cop killer and I was full of anger for Sean’s family sitting around me, for the officers all around, and for Sean. I am angry for the wife and children he never had and for the vacations he never got to take. I am angry for the dreams never realized because Wilbourne was a coward who wants to break the law, but not take the consequences of that lifestyle.
Sean served that community and by testimony they really liked “their neighborhood officer.” He engaged the kids and the community, by all accounts you not only took a great officer and solider, you took a great role model out of the community. The DA puts a picture of Sean up with a big smile on his face. His sister explains that is was at their brother’s wedding and he is laughing because he broke his tie and they had to fix it with a paper clip. His smile is real. You see it in his eyes. Such a handsome face, now a haunting one marred by the autopsy photos.
How can anyone decide a life is not worth anything? To shoot him in cold blood and leave him to die on the streets like some sort of animal and really, we treat our animals better than that. You shot him in the face rendering him defenseless and like the coward you are pulled the trigger 10 more times. What must happen to someone for them to feel no empathy for another human being? This blog will probably be a work in progress because I am still sorting through all the emotions, I have about this.
I have so many questions the biggest being why wasn’t he in jail? Bank robbery really? He is a bank robber and he is free??? I just don’t even know how to end this other than saying that I am sorry I didn’t get to know Sean on this side of Heaven, but I carry his smile with me always now.
To the men and women who serve and their families, thank you is not enough, but thank you for sure is warranted. You are true heroes all of you and my prayers are with you every time you put on that badge. Thank you for choosing us over yourselves and being there for us in our times of trouble. You are all amazing.
Tomorrow the Jury decides Wilbourn's fate. No matter what it is, it will be delivered more humanely than what this man got. I pray that Sean gets his justice.
**Update He was convicted of First Degree Murder. The State originally offered life without parole. Wilbourne accepted and Bolton's family did not. The jury is deciding his fate as I type this.