Panhandler apologizes for aggressiveness toward commissioner

By Jason Miles - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy kept his cool during a verbal assault Wednesday in the middle of an on-camera interview in Overton Park.

"You got two dollars?" asked a panhandler. 

"I don't, sorry," said Mulroy.

"I told you to keep your ____ mouth closed," said the panhandler.

"OK," answered Mulroy.

"Every time I see you, you better have two dollars," said the panhandler.

The panhandler told Action News 5 his name was Michael Rudd when we tracked him down near Methodist University Hospital hours after his encounter with the commissioner.  He appeared to ask others for money.

He told us he apologizes to Mulroy and should not be seen as a threat.  He said he has a dependence on alcohol and a mental disability.

"We've got a lot of people out there with substance abuse issues," says Brad Watkins with the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center.  "Mental health issues."

Watkins considers many panhandling laws unfair.   

"And we've got a judicial system that doesn't give these people the help they need," said Watkins.

"Some of these guys have significant criminal histories," said Larry Bloom with the Center City Commission.

He recently pushed for tougher restrictions downtown and across the city.  Bloom said Commissioner Mulroy could have easily been hurt.

"The more people are around, generally the safer you are," said Bloom.  "If it had been a one-on-one situation, you need to be calling 911."

A Michael Rudd was listed in the Shelby County Criminal Court database.  He has been charged in the past with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and assault & battery.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.