Murder in Memphis: Slain teen was days away from graduation

Published: May. 23, 2016 at 4:01 PM CDT|Updated: May. 24, 2016 at 2:14 AM CDT
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Kwasi Corbin (Source: Facebook)
Kwasi Corbin (Source: Facebook)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The son of the Booker T. Washington High School senior who was shot and killed in Downtown Memphis will accept her diploma on graduation day.

Principal Alisha Coleman-Kiner confirmed Monday that the school will present Myneishia Johnson's diploma to her 1-year-old son Kylen. Johnson's niece is scheduled to walk with Kylen to accept the diploma.

Johnson's mother is left questioning why her daughter, destined for college, an honor roll student, and an athlete, was gunned down and killed.

Memphis police said Johnson was not the target and the shooting was not gang related.

"She loves basketball, volleyball, dancing, singing," Johnson's mother said. "She can't even walk the aisle. God it's unreal."

Johnson was determined to graduate, despite having her son very young, according to the principal. School staff took care of her baby while she took her tests and passed all of them.

"She's that kind of kid who had an impact on everyone. Her spirit will be there and forever live on in the Class of 2016."

Johnson, 18, was shot and killed at the intersection of Peabody Place and Second Street in Downtown Memphis when someone opened fire in a crowd. Two other people, Courtney Abston and Deire Williams, were injured.

"They didn't do anything for my baby," Johnson's mother said. "They just left her lying there."

Students at the school said Monday was a somber day and they focused on loving each other a little more. Johnson's friends said the day wasn't the same without her.

"We all came together, made each other laugh -- you know, we don't want to go the whole day sad because she wouldn't want us crying," Nadia Noel said.

But there were also plenty of tears for the senior who will not be walking across the stage to receive her diploma with the rest of her class.

"And it just sucks she can't be here with us, can't walk across the stage, I can't yell her name across the stage," Tanichia Campbell said. "I'm angry, because you know she was close to me. Why were you downtown anyway with an assault rifle? You looking for trouble?"

Johnson's friends hope this crime doesn't overshadow the friend they love so much.

Sunday, faculty and staff at the school gathered with Johnson's friends and family for a vigil. There they all remembered Johnson as a huge part of their community and a wonderful presence.

The Booker T. Washington Lady Warriors Facebook fan page dedicated two posts to Johnson, remembering her for her athletic skill and asking for prayers for her family.

After a brief car chase, police arrested 19-year-old Kwasi Corbin and charged him in Johnson's death. Police said he admitted to shooting into the crowd with an assault rifle.

Corbin has a violent history with three outstanding warrants for offenses that included injury to others. Corbin had outstanding warrants for aggravated assault, domestic assault-bodily harm, and assault-bodily harm.

Corbin also has charges from 2015 in Southaven, Mississippi, for contempt of court, simple assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.

He was even shot in the eye two years ago. According to a picture he posted on Facebook after the shooting happened, he wrote, "Pray for Me, N** shot me in the eye."

Neighbors said Corbin was a troubled kid and was kicked out of high school.

"Just causing trouble, the police always getting called on him, stealing stuff," Kyle Walton said.

"He was always quick to fight," Miss Shirley said. "He's quick tempered."

He can even be seen using the Facebook Live app riding around Memphis rolling up a blunt, rapping while he's getting high. He's seen in the video showing off his gun.

In court Monday, Corbin was denied bond. He remains in jail. His case was reset so he could find an attorney.

This same 19-year-old is now sitting in jail while his small daughter is sitting at home.

"When you do something like that, there's consequences for everything," Walton said.

Corbin was kicked out of high school, had a violent home life, and was wanted for assault when the Downtown shooting happened. One man said this tragic cycle could have happened to him.

Shawn Cannon from Whitehaven said many of his high school friends were gang members. He said he has seen bad choices lead to tragedy. Cannon, 20, now works to keep teenagers on the right track.

He is in college to become a barber instructor and has written a book. He wants all teenagers to focus on their future and simply to make better choices. He said every choice made has a consequence.

"You determine whether that consequence is positive or negative by the decisions you make," Cannon said. "So, if you want to choose the streets, there are only two ways out: life in jail or death."

Memphis Police Department released new homicide numbers Monday. The numbers show that 91 people have been killed in 2016. That's 90 people in 144 days--or more than one person killed every other day.

Of those 91 homicides this year, 68 of those killed were black males, 14 were black females, 4 were white males, 1 white female, and 3 Latino males. Of the 63 people arrested for the killings, 53 are black males.

"Young, black, and violent. It's a culture thing we are dealing with," Delvin Lane, with the 901 Block Squad, said.

Lane said the violence is an issue among young black males nationwide. He said the goal is breaking the "fast life, and fast cash mentality" through mentorship, and giving young men a safe place to ask for help.

"A lot of them cry out before they shoot the guns," Lane said. "But, if none is available, of course they shoot the gun."

The homicide rate is 71 percent higher on May 23, 2016 than it was on May 23, 2015. That is a fact that Mayor Jim Strickland said should outrage the community.

"My heart breaks for the victims we've had to homicide," Strickland said. "The police by themselves cannot eliminate all the homicides. We need the community to step up and be outraged and say we aren't going to accept this anymore"

Strickland said there are more officers on the streets today than there were in 2015.

Strickland said it takes everyone getting involved to help prevent these types of crimes.

"More of us have to be involved in the Boys and Girls Club, Memphis Athletic Ministries, intervening in the lives of young people," Strickland said.

The mayor said the City is working to place police officers at community centers this summer to ensure they are safe places and hopes more people will mentor.

"They need to be outraged and sad yes, but they also need to follow that up with action," Strickland said.

Shelby County School Board member Stephanie Love agrees that police are not the final answer.

"We share the gun pictures, share the gang pictures, so we encourage our children to do wrong," Love said. "Candle light vigils are not OK. RIP t-shirts are not OK."

Love said it's time for our entire society to stop encouraging bad behavior. She said it's time to hold parents, the community, and children who do not intervene and stand up against this bad behavior.

Principal Coleman-Kiner said everyone needs to come together for change.

"It's deeper than another student at school. It's deeper with all of them; it's like losing your own," she said.

Kiner said this year alone, her students have suffered from multiple shootings.

"We've got to do something. None of us are doing enough," she said. "I want this one to go past a conversation because she was much too important for the conversation to end when we bury."

Kiner said the conversation should have started already. Weeks ago, another student was shot while getting ready for prom. Now four students will walk the stage with bullets inside of them and one won't walk at all.

"I want to know, what is it going to take for these senseless shootings to stop?"

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said everyone is working to try and figure out why the violence is happening and what can be done to stop it.

"Nobody has an answer as to what has caused a huge increase in violence since January 1. Before January 1 the statistics were showing improvement. One homicide in a year is too many, but we don't know what happened January 1 to cause this massive explosion of violence."

Weirich also said her office constantly reaches out to the community to try and provide options that will reduce violent crime.

"We have several programs and initiatives toward prevention and intervention, trying to get those that are on the wrong path back on the right path...It's hard to count the lives that have been saved--It's hard to count the lives that have been positively impacted by the programs we have in place."

While the Memphis crime rate is not directly under Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's jurisdiction, he released the following statement about how his department continues to work to prevent crime in Shelby County:

As Shelby County Mayor, I've been instrumental in the formation and continuation of the "Operation Safe Community" initiative, which takes a strategic approach to fighting crime.

Attacking crime takes suppression through aggressive policing,  prevention programs to reduce the chances of people being targets for crimes, and interdiction resources to help criminals from reoffending.

Specifically, Shelby County Government provides important services every day to support police agencies and assist the victims of crime.

It's my sincere hope crime will be reduced if all government and community agencies work together in this effort to help ensure the safety of all citizens throughout our county.

Johnson's funeral arrangements are set for Friday. Her visitation is set for 10 a.m. Friday. Her funeral will begin at 12 p.m. Those services will be held at Progressive Missionary Baptist on Vance Avenue.

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