15-year-old charged in death of beloved fruit vendor

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 8:20 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Police Department has identified the 15-year-old who allegedly killed the beloved street vendor known as ‘Red the Watermelon Man’.

Demarion Tackett, 15, is charged with first-degree murder, robbery, aggravated robbery, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.

This year alone, 163 youths have been charged with committing a serious offense, according to the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County.

15-year-old charged in death of beloved fruit vendor
15-year-old charged in death of beloved fruit vendor(Action News 5)

Family and friends are grieving the loss of 76-year-old John Materna, the man many knew as the Watermelon Man. Those who knew him say his death is a tremendous loss for the community. “For Mr. Red to leave here like that. [He] didn’t bother anybody. [He] sat there and waved, sold his watermelons, that was uncalled for and everybody in this community hurt,” said Francene Brown, who stopped Wednesday at a growing memorial for the beloved community favorite. For decades, Materna sold fruit from his truck on the corner of Homer Street and Wayne Avenue. He used the extra cash for vacations for himself and his wife, of 43 years. On May 15th, police found him lying on the ground next to his truck after being shot in the stomach. He was rushed to Regional One Hospital in critical condition.

Yesterday, community members stopped by to leave flowers, and teddy bears, and take photos to remember Materna, a man they say always spoke to everybody.

Police say there were two suspects involved.

Many of the people who stopped by the memorial on Tuesday say they’re praying for Materna’s family.

Meanwhile, as Memphis Police continue their investigation, they’re still searching for one more suspect.

Anyone with information should call crime stoppers at 901-528-CASH.

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