His unprecedented actions landed Travis Shantell Williams, 28, in Shelby County Jail by Wednesday night, charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
Williams is accused of helping warn 54-year-old Cleo Henderson “that he should leave before police get there,” according to a court affidavit. Henderson escaped.
He is wanted in the Jan. 15 murder of Reuben J. Jefferson, 48, outside Luster’s Sundry near Downtown on East Georgia at Danny Thomas Boulevard.
Williams did not contact Henderson directly but allegedly informed a third party who alerted the suspect, according to a police statement.
Not since it began in 1981 has someone answering anonymous calls at CrimeStoppers leaked information to a suspect as Williams is believed to have done, said Buddy Chapman, executive director of CrimeStoppers of Memphis and Shelby County.
“It is a totally unbelievable stretch of coincidences,” Chapman said Thursday.
The story has another strange twist.
Last Aug. 11, Williams was in training to become a Memphis police officer when an instructor accidentally shot him in the left wrist at the police academy.
When the department fired two police instructors in October because of the incident, officials said Williams had been assigned to the department’s Real Time Crime Center.
They said that after fully recovering, he would be eligible to attend another police recruit training session.
Details about Williams’ employment with the city were not immediately available.
Police offered no comment on any possible connection between Williams and Henderson.
Thomas Kern, chairman of the national Crime Stoppers USA, said he has never before heard of a tip taker warning a suspect of the tip.
“That’s a new one on me,” said Kern, a veteran of Indianapolis-based Central Indiana Crime Stoppers.
When the tip came in, Williams did properly issue a tip number to the caller, a step that allows those providing information to remain anonymous.
Chapman, who started the area CrimeStoppers program as Memphis police director from 1976 to 1983, said the “absolutely amazing” coincidences included that Williams was on duty to take the call and apparently knew the suspect.
CrimeStoppers will still reward the anonymous caller, Chapman said.
“I’ll make sure they get paid,” he said. “It’s certainly not their fault.”