As current and former military servicemen and women observed Veterans Day on Sunday, one of their own, Memphis police officer and Iraq War veteran Willie Bryant, was hospitalized in critical condition days after being accidentally shot by a fellow MPD officer.
MPD personnel records indicate the 32-year-old Bryant, who was still in critical condition Wednesday morning, was a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard. Nine months after joining MPD, he was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he served as an infantryman from Aug. 2004 — Feb. 2006. His activation order from Camp Shelby, which was retained by Memphis police, said Bryant would serve in an area of "imminent danger."
Bryant was honorably discharged and awarded the Overseas Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and Iraq Campaign Medal, among other honors.
He was assigned to MPD's Appling Station after returning from active duty.
During his MPD career, Bryant has received positive performance reviews, according to records. He was commended in March 2007 for helping subdue an armed robbery suspect. The same month, Bryant received another commendation for leading his shift in felony arrests and moving citations issued.
His only apparent missteps in nine years as an officer involved vehicle accidents. In Feb. 2007, Bryant left the scene of an crash without insuring debris — including a downed utility pole — had been cleared from the street. A car struck the utility pole hours later. In February of this year, Bryant was orally reprimanded for rough or careless handling of equipment when his squad car rolled into the rear of another vehicle at a stop light. No damage occurred to either car.
Public address records indicate the Organized Crime Unit officer who shot Bryant is also a military veteran. Byron Willis, 43, was stationed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, though further details on the time and nature of his service were unavailable.
He, too, has received generally positive performance reviews in his five-year career with MPD, though he has faced more disciplinary action. Willis was suspended one day in March 2010 after striking another vehicle with his squad car for the second time that year. In that accident, he rolled into a parked vehicle in a private driveway after forgetting to engage his parking brake. In the other accident, he struck the rear of a fellow officer's squad car while the two were responding to a call. Minor damage occurred in each collision, and no injuries were reported.
Willis was among OCU officers involved in the February raid of a Memphis lingerie party in which six juveniles and 10 adults — including a registered sex offender — were arrested. He was given a written reprimand in the incident after a witness recorded him grabbing a 16-year-old suspect by the neck and throwing the boy against a vehicle. The video was posted to YouTube, but has since been removed.