15-year-old charged in fatal shooting of ‘Watermelon Man’

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 7:29 PM CDT|Updated: May. 30, 2023 at 8:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis Police Department has confirmed that a 15-year-old has been charged in the murder of a beloved street vendor affectionately known as ‘Red the Watermelon Man.’

The teen’s identity and charges have not been disclosed.

Meanwhile, family, friends, and customers in the Berclair neighborhood are grieving the death of 76-year-old John Materna after he died Monday after being shot two weeks ago in an attempted robbery.

All day Tuesday, community members stopped by to leave flowers, teddy bears, and take photos to remember the friendly face on Homer Street and Wayne Avenue who sold them watermelons for three decades.

“Seven days a week, I’ll see him and his wife, at least once, and he speaks to everybody,” said Christian Butler, one of Materna’s customers.

Without fail, Materna would set up shop every morning, greeting people with a friendly smile and selling his fruit to customers.

“We came here 10 times to buy watermelon from him, he was a kind man,” said Stephen Sanchez, a neighborhood customer.

“He was a great guy, down to earth, making an honest living. Every time I used to come home, we’re leaving home, the guy would be standing here right on this corner,” said Butler.

He would’ve continued to do what he enjoyed, but his life was cut short by gun violence on May 15.

According to Memphis police, two suspects driving a silver Infiniti shot Materna while trying to rob him.

“Just so sad, he had to lose his life to some senseless killing over nothing,” said Butler.

It is a huge loss for the community that Materna passed away.

For now, all that remains on the corner of Homer and Wayne is a growing memorial where friends and loved ones in the Berclair community are remembering the street vendor who planted a seed in their hearts.

“I’m just praying for his wife, his kids, if he had any,” said Butler. “I’m just wishing this was all a joke.”

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