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The Shannon Street massacre refers to a shootout that occurred at a house on Shannon Street in Memphis, Tennessee on January 12, 1983. Police officers Ray Schwill and Bobby Hester were called to the house after which a confrontation ensued and Hester was taken hostage by seven men inside the house. After a 30 hour standoff, Memphis Police officers stormed the house and opened fire, killing all seven captors, after which Officer Hester was found beaten to death. The police's handling of the incident was controversial and led to changes in Memphis police procedure.[1][2]

Shannon Street massacre
DateJanuary 12–14, 1983 (1983-01-12 – 1983-01-14)
Duration30 hours
Location2239 Shannon Street,
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
ParticipantsMemphis Police Department, seven cultists lead by Lindberg Sanders
Non-fatal injuries1
VerdictJustifiable homicide


The incidentEdit

On January 12, 1983, Memphis police were called to 2239 Shannon Street to investigate an alleged purse snatching. Inside the home was Lindberg Sanders-- a man with a history of mental illness and who called himself "Black Jesus"-- and seven other men who were his followers. Sanders harbored a strong hatred for law enforcement and had told his followers that the world would end on January 10, 1983.

Officers Ray Schwill and Bobby Hester responded to the call. Upon arrival Schwill and Hester were ambushed by all seven men in the house. Schwill sustained a gunshot wound to the face and escaped, but Hester was taken hostage.

Schwill radioed for help and police quickly surrounded the house.[2][3][4]

Police began negotiations with Sanders, who stated that he wanted to broadcast the murder of a police officer over a Memphis radio station and that any attempt by officers to enter the house would result in Officer Hester being beaten to death. Hester could be heard on the police radio begging for help. [2][3][4] After 30 hours of negotiations with no resolution, police raided the house. During the 20-minute raid, police first released tear gas after which they alleged the captors opened fire on them with .38-caliber service revolvers stolen from Schwill and Hester. The police assault team then opened fire on the captors with M16 carbines and 12-gauge shotguns, killing all seven captors.[4] Police then discovered the body of Officer Hester, who had been beaten and stabbed to death several hours earlier.[5]


Name Age
Lindberg Sanders 49
Larnell Sanders 26
Michael Delane Coleman 18
Earl Thomas 20
Andrew Houston 18
David Lee Jordan 29
Cassell Harris 21
Officer Robert S. Hester 34


Many police officers (and citizens) were angered by the Memphis Police's waiting 30 hours to finally raid the house. Officers of the assault team wanted to raid the house once they heard Hester screaming, but police administrators wanted to keep negotiating. By the time they were authorized to raid, Hester had been dead for several hours.[3]

Members of Sanders' family and Memphis' African-American community disputed the police's version of events. Sanders' daughter Lucinda claimed that Officer Schwill had started the confrontation at the house by shoving Lindberg Sanders. Schwill was known to mimic African-American speech when interacting with African-Americans, which could have been taken as an insult.[2] Sanders' wife Dorothy alleged that all the men were executed in retaliation for the killing of Hester. Julian Bolton, a Shelby County Commissioner at the time, criticized the police response as excessive, as he felt that not everyone in house was responsible for Hester's death. Bolton also noted how six of the seven captors were shot in the head and that their bodies were photographed lying next to each other, which Bolton stated indicates that they were shot execution-style. A FBI investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of the police.[1]

After the incident, Memphis Police adopted a policy of immediate raids for hostage situations if a hostage has been injured. Memphis Police also implemented more training on how to de-escalate crisis situations, particularly with mentally ill subjects.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Twenty-five years later, widow remembers Shannon Street". WMC 5. February 20, 2008. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Thompson, April (April 29, 2016). "Shannon Street documentary shows how tragedy changed Memphis Police". News Channel 3. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "OFFICER KILLED, MEMPHIS POLICE SLAY 7 CULTISTS". United Press International. January 14, 1983. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Thorsberg, Frank (January 18, 1983). "The seven black religious fanatics who beat to death..." United Press International. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
  5. ^ Thorsberg, Frank. "A medical examiner said today the policeman slain by..." United Press International. Retrieved January 13, 2019.