The officer was taken to a hospital in “extremely critical” condition, the department said. The Memphis police have been under intense scrutiny after the death of Tyre Nichols.
MEMPHIS — A Memphis police officer shot and killed a man in a public library on Thursday afternoon after the man shot another officer, critically wounding him, the authorities said.
The Memphis Police Department, which has been under intense scrutiny after the beating that led to the death of Tyre Nichols last month, said that the man who was shot was pronounced dead at the scene. The officer was taken to a hospital in “extremely critical” condition, the department said.
Keli McAlister, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which was called in to investigate the shooting, said the Memphis police responded to a report of a man trespassing at a business near the Poplar-White Station Library around noon. The same man got into a confrontation with someone else about 30 minutes later inside the library, Ms. McAlister said, and when the police tried to talk to him, he pulled out a gun and shot an officer.
A second police officer then fatally shot the man, she said. Ms. McAlister said that both officers, as well as the man whom the police killed, were Black men.
Brad Winchester, 59, a regular at the Poplar-White Station Library, said that it was quiet at the branch when he arrived a little after noon, with only about five patrons and the library’s staff inside.
When he walked in, Mr. Winchester said he noticed two police officers near the library’s computer bank questioning a man he had never seen before.
“I’d made it around to the area where I read my books,” Mr. Winchester said. “I’d gotten two pages into the book and the shooting started.”
He said he heard several shots and dragged a female patron behind a bookcase to hide her from the gunfire. When he looked up, he saw a police officer wounded on the ground, with another officer trying to help him.
“The officer was laying face up,” he said. “The other police was trying to administer aid. You could visibly see blood.”
“That was very scary,” he added as he crossed the library’s parking lot after being questioned by the police.
The local district attorney, Steven J. Mulroy, had asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into the shooting. Mr. Mulroy’s office is leading the prosecution of the five Memphis police officers who have been charged with second-degree murder in Mr. Nichols’s death after video footage showed officers punching and kicking Mr. Nichols and striking him with a baton.
The library where Thursday’s shooting took place is in an upscale area of the East Memphis neighborhood, surrounded by restaurants, bars and a Whole Foods grocery store. Directly behind the library is a 34-story office building called the Clark Tower.
Rubbie King, a paralegal, said she went to the library on Thursday to get some work done after a recent ice storm knocked out the internet at her home. She had just gotten into a study room near the front of the library, she said, when she heard five gunshots.
She backed into a corner of the room and decided against turning the lights off, not wanting to attract attention. When she looked out, she saw that a police officer had pinned a man to the ground.
“The police officer was standing with his foot on the guy’s back and said, ‘I told you, stop moving. If you move again, I’ma pop you again,’” Ms. King, 54, recalled after she returned home, still shaken by the experience.
She said the man was lying in an area beyond the library’s metal detectors. She looked around and then slowly walked out of the library to safety.
Ms. King said it had been a hard few weeks in the city, with Mr. Nichols’s death, the release of videos showing the beating and, now, a tragedy in a public library. On a trip to Texas last weekend, she had been reluctant to tell people that she was from Memphis.
“It’s so unfortunate that Memphis has gotten this much publicity, and not very positive publicity,” she said. “It’s really, really sad. At some point, we will recover, but there is definitely a lot of work to be done.”
Jessica Jaglois contributed reporting.