Milwaukee police have released photos of a bicycle-riding suspect in the shooting death of neighborhood activist Bernell Trammell.
Trammell, 60, was known for his political signs and for preaching about religion from street corners. Of late, he was very visible in the community for toting around signs supporting President Donald Trump.
Trammell was gunned down on July 23 in front of his sign-festooned Milwaukee storefront, near the very spot where he gave a video interview a few hours before explaining why he supported Trump. Milwaukee police originally wrote that they were seeking “unknown suspects.” The motive is not clear, including whether or not the slaying was tied into Trammell’s political beliefs or Trump support.
However, on July 27, police released the pictures of a man they described as the “suspect” wanted in Trammell’s homicide. Here are those photos:
The suspect is described as a male in his 30’s, 6’00, 200 pounds, last seen wearing a white and red baseball cap, a black mask covering the lower portion of his face, a black and red long sleeve shirt with white writing on the front, white or light-colored pants, black socks and pic.twitter.com/jO23ASrGVa
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) July 27, 2020
“MPD is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect wanted for a homicide that occurred on the 900 block of East Wright Street on Thursday, July 23, 2020, at about 12:30 P.M. The victim of this incident was identified as 60 year old Milwaukee man, Bernell Trammell,” police wrote.
“The suspect is described as a male in his 30’s, 6’00, 200 pounds, last seen wearing a white and red baseball cap, a black mask covering the lower portion of his face, a black and red long sleeve shirt with white writing on the front, white or light-colored pants, black socks and white shoes. The suspect’s mode of transportation was a black bicycle. If anyone has any information they are asked to call Milwaukee Police at 414-935-7360 or Milwaukee Crime Stoppers at 414-224-TIPS where their TIP can lead to a cash reward. This incident is still under investigation and the motive of this homicide is still under determination.”
CBS 58 reported that Trammell was a political independent who supported candidates of different parties over the years, including Democratic mayoral candidate Lena Taylor. A memorial grew at the spot where he died in Riverwest, an area of Milwaukee known for its diversity, the television station reported, quoting a man who knew Trammell as stressing how Trammell believed in Democracy and free speech.
Here’s what you need to know:
Although the Motive Remains Unclear, the State GOP Wants a Federal Investigation
The Wisconsin GOP is now calling for a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney into the shooting death of Trammell because of “his well known political activism and the possibility that his murder could be politically motivated,” WISN-12 reported.
Kevan Penvose wrote on Facebook that Trammell “was a man with whom I hardly ever agreed about anything he wrote on his signs, but also, as a Rasta street preacher, he was one of the people that make my neighborhood so uniquely wonderful. Around 12:30 this afternoon I heard gunshots nearby as I was working at my dining room table. Soon after, I was reading reports on social media of a shooting around the block, at the location of this one-of-a-kind storefront that I’ve walked by a million times… Peace and light, Ras Bernell.”
Reggie Moore, Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention director, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he had “intervened in a dispute between Trammell and a young man” that he thought was “related to a Trump sign that Trammell was carrying.”
Moore told the newspaper that Trammell was “a Black elder who didn’t deserve to die the way that he did.” Heavy has reached out to Moore for more information on the encounter and Trammell’s importance to the community. It’s not clear whether that encounter had anything to do with Trammell’s death, though, because police aren’t saying anything about motive.
Police say the shooting unfolded on a Thursday afternoon in broad daylight.
“Milwaukee Police are investigating a shooting that occurred on Thursday, July 23, 2020, at approximately 12:31 p.m., on the 900 block of E. Wright Street,” police wrote in a news release.
“The victim, a 60-year-old man from Milwaukee sustained fatal injuries. The circumstances leading up to the shooting are under investigation. Milwaukee Police continues to seek unknown suspects. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Milwaukee Police at (414) 935-7360 or Milwaukee Crime Stoppers at (414) 224-TIPS or P3 Tips App.”
Heavy has reached out to MPD’s press office for more details, especially on potential motive.
Trammell Spoke About His Political Beliefs to a Local Writer Shortly Before Being Shot
Armstrong Ransome (the pen name of local artist and writer Adebisi Agoro) wrote on the site The God Degree that he recorded video interviews with Trammell just hours before his death. “Earlier today he had mentioned to me ‘you wouldn’t guess the amount of hate I received from Black people,’” Ransome wrote. Agoro became curious about Trammell’s political beliefs after seeing him at a bus stop and decided to ask “about what I saw on Facebook and why he was holding the Trump sign?”
A few days before, Agoro had seen a photo on Facebook with Trammell carrying a Trump sign throughout the community, a post that carried the label “hero.” Alongside him walked another man with an opposing sign carrying the word “sike,” which Agoro says basically means “not.” Agoro wrote that the photo caused a “stir” on the Internet days earlier so he decided to ask Trammell about it.
Agoro recorded videos of an interview he conducted the day Trammell died in which Trammell, clutching a pro-Trump sign, explains his political beliefs. You can see those videos here.
“I have encouraged Afro-Americans from all walks of life and culture here in Wisconsin and particularly here in Milwaukee to vote Donald Trump for this year. Trump 2020. I believe Trump is the sign of the times,” Trammell says in one of the videos, recorded outside his publishing business near the very spot where he would be shot a few hours later. He is standing in front of a “Wisconsin Vote Donald Trump” sign in that video.
“No less than two hours after I left from filming Ras Bernell I had heard word from Facebook that…someone in the area that Ras Bernell stays in had been shot,” Ransome wrote on The God Degree. “To my surprise it was Ras Bernell. The moment I had read the news I was attempting to upload the above videos used in this post onto my laptop for use…He was murdered right outside of his shop where we were just speaking. His home. Seemingly these were his last words.”
The article is headlined “WHO SHOT THE RAS? Did Ras Bernell’s support for Donald Trump lead to his untimely death?” So far, the answer to that remains unknown. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said he also had a Black Lives Matter sign, although pictures of his storefront show it was not prominently displayed outside (his storefront contained three large Trump signs, a sign reading “Mulattos Lives Matter Wisconsin” and other signs, including messaging about his business.) Ransome’s article also contains a picture of those and other signs belonging to Trammell and that filled his business, including one reading, “Thumb’s up…before guns up.”
His article also shows that Trammell had a Black Lives Matter sign in his store.
“The guy was just full of love,” Dick Nelson told Fox 6 Milwaukee.
Janette Island told the station that Trammell enjoyed talking about a variety of religions, adding, “It was very deep conversations, very philosophical. He was a really great guy. He meant no harm.”