MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - U.S. Marshals Task Force agents shot and killed a suspected baby killer on Vernon Avenue near Macon Road while serving a warrant Wednesday afternoon.
Carolyn Rose says the man shot was her nephew 36-year-old Markell Atkins. He was wanted for killing a 1-year-old last year.
A deputy U.S. Marshal and task force agents shot the wanted man after they say he threatened them with a knife as they were inside the house serving a warrant for his arrest
"They kicked the door in and started shooting," the suspect's aunt, Carolyn Rose, said.
"It's a horrible thing to come home to especially being right down the street," neighbor Sean Szurpicki said.
According to WMC Action News 5 archives, Markell Atkins has been wanted since May 2014. That's when police say he beat his girlfriend's 1-year-old to death. He was babysitting hours before the child was taken to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital with severe injuries. One-year-old Tramayne Black later died.
Atkins has been on the run ever since. But his family contends it all was an accident.
"He didn't do that on purpose. I heard that he just set the baby on the counter, stepped away for a second, and the baby fell off the counter," Sheila Turley, another one of Atkins' aunts, said. "They wanted to ask him some questions. He never came in for questioning, so that question turned into being a first-degree murder charge."
WMC Action News 5 records show Atkins has a lengthy arrest history dating back to 1997.
Shelby County Sheriff's Office spokesman Chip Washington said local U.S. Marshals task forces are made up with deputies and officers. In this case, the agents were serving a warrant at a house in the 3800 block of Vernon Avenue.
Agents say the fugitive refused to surrender and instead, pulled out a knife. At that time, agents opened fire, killing the suspect.
Family members say Atkins has been too afraid to turn himself in because of his prior record. Now, as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations take over the case, Atkins' family is praying for answers during this time of grief.
"They need to stop and take better procedures before going into people's houses and just shooting people," said Rose.