60-year-old Whitehaven activist shot, killed

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 4:18 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WHITEHAVEN, Tenn. (WMC) - Whitehaven is mourning the loss of another prominent community advocate who was shot and killed.

Memphis police and loved ones confirmed that 60-year-old Dr. Yvonne Nelson was shot and killed over the weekend near Craigmont Middle School, and the suspect was seen driving away in her car.

It was less than one month ago when Dr. Autura Eason-Williams, a minister who advocated for youth justice reform, was shot and killed in her Whitehaven driveway. MPD said the killers took off with her Infiniti. Investigators arrested and charged a 20-year-old and two 15-year-olds with the crime.

Nelson led the Whitehaven Community Development Corporation for 25 years, and dedicated much of her work to keeping Whitehaven clean.

For decades, she advocated for cleaner streets, less crime and fair elections in Whitehaven, calling out Shelby County election officials when they moved a longtime voting precinct to another location in Whitehaven.

The Memphis Police Department (MPD) responded to a shots fired call Saturday night at around 11:05 p.m, near the intersection of Covington Pike and Yale.

Police reported that Nelson was shot multiple times outside a strip mall in the area. MPD said callers told 911 that “the suspect fled the scene in a newer model black Infiniti sedan,” a car that friends said Nelson was excited to buy a few months ago.

An anonymous witness said Nelson was shot and killed in front of Pro Nails.
An anonymous witness said Nelson was shot and killed in front of Pro Nails.(Action News 5)

In 2020, when Graceland officials wanted to turn Graves Elementary in Whitehaven into a two-story factory churning out jewelry and collectibles, Dr. Nelson led the “not in my backyard” effort to strike down the project.

Nelson was a member of the community group “My Zip,” and spoke out about the problems customers faced inside the Whitehaven Kroger in 2019, including dead insects and dirty coolers. Kroger was ultimately cited for several violations.

In 2018, Nelson organized a town hall meeting after finding out Waste Connections planned to expand its truck maintenance operations onto Brooks Road, along Whitehaven neighborhoods.

“Shame on you,” she told community leaders, “shame on you, that’s what I say. You know better.”

Tennessee State Senator Raumesh Akbari posted to Facebook on Monday about Nelson’s death, reading:

“This is such an unbelievable loss for the Whitehaven and Memphis community and such a senseless murder. Another Whitehaven shero gone too soon.”

The Greater Memphis Chamber CEO and President Beverly Robertson offered a statement on Monday about Nelson’s death:

“Dr. Yvonne Nelson was a fierce community advocate for important assets that significantly improved underserved communities and residents. Her voice and power to galvanize residents will certainly be missed.”

Memphis City Councilwoman Patrice Robinson’s son is best friends with Nelson’s child.

“Dr. Nelson was passionate about our community,” Robinson said. “She was relentless when change was in order. Dr. Nelson spoke on behalf of Lupus foundations. Her voice and presence will be missed in our community. My family and I mourn the death of Yvonne and pray that God will comfort the hearts of her children and family and give them peace.”

Jason Sharif, executive director of RESPECT the Haven CDC, said he’s still processing Dr. Nelson’s passing.

“This is a tremendous loss to the Whitehaven and Memphis community. We send our condolences to her family, friends and loved ones. Less than 3 months ago we honored Dr. Nelson for her years of dedicated service to the Whitehaven community. We will continue her work and legacy. Personally, I enjoyed talking to her and getting to know her these past three months and I will miss her tremendously. I pray we find a solution to the senseless violence that plagues our community.”

The Memphis Police Department has developed a person of interest in this investigation and requested information on the female whose photo is attached.

Police are seeking information about the suspect shown.
Police are seeking information about the suspect shown.(Memphis Police Department)

Dr. Nelson’s daughter posted a message to Facebook on Sunday, along with photos of the woman " target="_blank">Memphis Police called a person of interest in the killing:

“My mother was murdered last night. Her name was Dr. Yvonne Denise Nelson. If you know of this person (pictured), can you please contact MPD? Can you please share this post for me, if if you don’t? My family is looking for justice.”

Congressman Steve Cohen released a statement Tuesday morning:

“This must stop. We just lost two of our community leaders in Whitehaven. These shootings seem like regular, every-day occurrences. But they can’t be. It’s a danger to every Memphian and a danger to Memphis as a city. I will continue to fight for gun safety legislation at the federal level and join all of the local officials in making a commitment to support more funding and support to stop the killing. My thoughts go out to the victims’ families and loved ones.”

Please contact Crime Stoppers at (901) 528-CASH with any information about this case. There is a cash reward for any information leading to the identification and arrest of those responsible.

Copyright 2022 WMC. All rights reserved.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.