After an extensive manhunt, the man who allegedly shot and killed a police officer over the weekend has surrendered, authorities announced Monday evening.
Police said 29-year-old convicted bank robber Tremaine Wilbourn shot officer Sean Bolton, who stopped a drug deal, on Saturday night and then fled. Bolton was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died from his injuries.
Wilbourn arrived with an attorney at a federal building in Memphis at 4:53 p.m. Monday and he turned himself in to the U.S. Marshal’s Office, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said at a news conference. He was taken to the Memphis Police Department’s homicide bureau for further investigation and will likely be arraigned Tuesday, Armstrong added.
On Sunday night, police launched a manhunt for Wilbourn, who was considered “armed and dangerous” and announced $20,000 in reward money for information leading to his capture, according to Fox’s WHBQ-TV. Wilbourn was wanted on charges of first-degree murder in Bolton’s death.
“I want to thank everyone who assisted in spreading the word and assisted in the search. I’m sure in some way this aided in Wilbourn surrendering,” Armstrong said. “We’ve always been one step behind him or one step ahead of him, and I think he felt the walls closing in on him.”
Armstrong previously described the suspect as “a coward.” After he surrendered, Armstrong said Wilbourn told him, “I want you to know that, one, I’m not a cold-blooded killer, and two, I’m not a coward.”
On Saturday night, Bolton, 33, spotted a 2002 Mercedes Benz that was parked illegally and shined his patrol car’s spotlight on the vehicle, according to the Associated Press. When he approached the vehicle, Wilbourn, who was a passenger, stepped out of the car and confronted Bolton, police said.
Police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph told NBC News that Bolton was wearing a bullet-proof vest but he did not have on a body camera.
“A brief struggle ensued between the passenger and the officer, at which time the passenger shot officer Bolton multiple times,” Armstrong said.
“We heard it,” a witness told NBC News. “Bang bang bang. Bang bang bang.”
Wilbourn and the driver, who has not been identified, fled the scene, police said. The driver later turned himself in to police and surrendered his vehicle, in which police found a digital scale and 1.7 grams of marijuana. The driver was later released without being charged, police said.
After the shooting, a witness told NBC News that neighbors tried to call 911 but couldn’t get through.
A citizen grabbed Bolton’s police radio and called it in, urging authorities to “please, please hurry up!” according to audio from NBC News. Bolton was taken to Regional Medical Center in downtown Memphis in critical condition. He later died from multiple gunshot wounds, police said.
Armstrong said during a Sunday news conference, “We are using all the means available to use to find the people responsible for this.”
“I think it’s safe to say when you look at this individual, you’re looking at a coward,” Armstrong said. “He’s a coward. You gun down, you murder, a police officer for less than two grams of marijuana. You literally destroy a family. Look at the impact that this had on this department, this community, this city. For less than two grams of marijuana.”
Armstrong said that the small amount of marijuana found in the vehicle would have warranted a misdemeanor citation and a fine. It is not clear, however, whether Armstrong was speaking about the penalty Wilbourn might have received given his criminal record.
“This speaks volumes about the inherent dangers of police work,” said Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton, according to the Commercial Appeal.
Bolton’s death comes amid cries over perceived excessive force by law enforcement. Over the past 12 months, the nation has been fixated on several police-involved killings — Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott. Then earlier this month, then-University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing allegedly shot and killed Samuel DuBose during a routine traffic stop. He faces charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
In Memphis, friends and family described Bolton as a shy guy who once played football and thrived on the wrestling team at White Station High School, according to the Commercial Appeal. He graduated in 1999 and went on to study political science at the University of Memphis.
He joined the U.S. Marines — a childhood dream — and went to Iraq, where he served one tour. He joined the Memphis police force in 2010.
“Sean, all he ever talked about from the day I met him was becoming a policeman and being in the Marines,” family friend Minda Klitzner told the Commercial Appeal. “I can tell you, we had plenty of discussions about him being a policeman.”
“He didn’t want to be a mean cop,” she added. “He wanted to be a friendly cop.”
Bolton’s funeral will be held Thursday. His family was notified Monday evening of Wilbourn’s arrest. “They are relieved. Certainly this will be part of the healing process,” Armstrong said. “This will be a long healing process.”
A week from his 34th birthday, Bolton lost his life — the third Memphis police officer killed in the line of duty within the past four years, according to news reports. In 2011, officer Tim Warren was killed while responding to a shooting at a downtown hotel. The next year, officer Martoiya Lang was killed while serving a warrant.
“Once again, we won’t make any political statements here, but this again is evidence that there are so many guns on our streets in the wrong hands,” Wharton said. “Men and women in blue have rules of engagement they have to follow, but at any given minute in a 24-hour-day they are dealing with people who have no rules of engagement.”
Wharton told the Commercial Appeal he asked the Memphis City Council to match the U.S. Marshal’s $10,000 for Wilbourn’s arrest.
Wilbourn had been out on supervised release after serving a federal sentence for bank robbery, according to the Associated Press.
“Last night, we lost not only an officer but a great man, a dedicated servant to our community and a family member,” Armstrong said during the news conference. “We as a community must come together and remember that all lives matter. Not just black lives, not just white lives, but all lives matter.”
Wilbourn is African American and Bolton was white.
[This post has been updated.]