Marvell Locke’s Death

Marvell Locke (59) died at the hands of Circle K store clerk Nicholas Vitatoe, on May 19th, 2020.

Marvell Locke

As reported by Action News 5 later in 2020, Marvell Locke is seen on security video as he approached a clerk at the Circle K located at 8971 US 64 on May 19th, around 1:30 AM. He asked the clerk, Nicholas Vitatoe, if he could clean the lot. Marvell Locke occasionally made a few bucks from local businesses doing odd jobs.

Mr Vitatoe tells Mr. Locke to leave, then calls the police and texts his manager. At some point, Mr Locke exits to the parking lot. Mr Vitatoe then says he will not wait for police and will take care of this himself. Mr Vitatoe exits the store and out of camera view. A shot is heard, and Mr. Vitatoe re-enters the store and places a black handgun on the counter.

Nicholas Vitatoe

Responding police found Mr Locke’s body DOA in the parking lot and arrested Nicholas Vitatoe, charging him initially with involuntary manslaughter. He was taken to 201 Poplar and immediately released on his own recognisance.

Mr Vitatoe was indicted on June 3, 2021 for second degree murder, and, on March 22, 2022, he entered a guilty plea to that charge. He has not yet been sentenced as of June 7 2022.

Family sues

On September 3, 2020, the estate of Marvell Locke filed a wrongful death suit (PDF) against Nicholas Vitatoe, Circle K and others seeking damages. This case is still in progress, and attorney Howard Manis of the Cochran firm declined to comment on June 7 2022.

Authorization of Agency

Excerpt from the MPD affidavit of complaint for Nicholas Vitatoe.

The above is the affidavit of complaint filed against Vitatoe by MPD on May 19th 2020, showing the original involuntary manslaughter charge.
The affidavit mentions that there was an Authorization of Agency (AoA) in force for Marvell Locke at the Circle K premises. The AoA was also mentioned in this News 3 article which was likely informed by the affidavit.
In fact, there is no AoA filed against Marvell Locke for the Circle K.

Our AoA database.

We have created an Authorization of Agency database. This spreadsheet (XLSX) contains indexed AoAs from late 2016 to July 2019. This Zip file has the raw AoA data from July 2019 to February 2020, and this Zip file has the raw AoA data from February to August 2020, as received from MPD via FOIA.
The AoA for Circle K mentioned in the Nicholas Vitatoe affidavit of complaint does not exist in the FOIA data.

Marvell Locke’s Only AoA

Marvell Locke’s only Authorization of Agency

The above is Marvell’s only AoA in the database. It was created in March, 2019 for the Best Western Hotel in the same area as the Circle K and other businesses mentioned. The misspelling of Marvell’s given name as Marvel is common in the police and court documents.

Marvell Locke’s record.

.Police allege in sworn court affidavits and an arrest citation that Marvell Locke had AoAs at Kroger Gas, 9027 US 64, Kroger store at 9025 US 64 and Pizza Hut 8979 US 64. The only AoA on file is for the Best Western Hotel at 8635 US 64. Incidentally, the Pizza Hut is in the same block as the Circle K.

It is easy for police to commit this type of AoA fraud. When the DA’s office sends supporting documents to a Public Defender, they are reduced in size and presented four to a page. With the handwritten scrawl that AoAs are rendered with, it is impossible to make out the detail on an AoA. We have other examples of police substituting AoAs for defendants.

This can be a critical factor in obtaining a trespass conviction and getting longer sentences. For many, an AoA is an entry point to the criminal justice system.

Why did cops target Locke?

While being arrested on 11/14/2019 police allege in yet another affidavit of complaint that Marvell Lock, from the back of Adam Durham’s cruiser, spat in the cop’s eye. Police have a HIV protocol when that happens.

This article, from Law Enforcement Today gives the police viewpoint. They list dozens of Marvell Locke’s infractions and seem to imply that Mr Locke is a career criminal and a fair target for summary execution. It is clear that the police had spoken with local business owners about Mr Locke, including a visit to the Circle K a few days previously. It is easy to think that Nicholas Vitatoe had imagined that the police would not care if he slaughtered Marvell Locke. The police undercharge and his release with no bond did show extreme leniency by the police, and if George Floyd had not been murdered that summer, Mr Vitatoe might be a free man today.

MPD AoA regulations/UPSSOP

We obtained MPD’s Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure via FOIA and analyzed those regulations in our blog.

AoA (the police version, there’s also a separate version of AoA at the DA’s office) purports to authorize police to arrest a specified person for trespass without the due process of the Tennessee trespass law, that requires a defendant to be informed he is trespassing and given an opportunity to depart. As such, it is a fast-track to a trespass conviction. Read more about AoA.

The master database is filed in each precinct in its original handwritten form. The procedure is that the property representative informs the subject that she is barred from the premises and will be arrested for trespass on sight. The complainant and the police go to the station where the cop signs to assert that the subject has been informed and that he is witnessing the complainant’s signature.

We audited over 2300 AoA forms and found that 93% of them were invalid because this procedure and other UPSSOP requirements were not followed.

AoA abuses

  • We have seen where MPD substituted the single Best Western AoA against Marvell Locke in three other cases. We have seen other cases like this.
  • In our recent FOIAs, we found three AoAs on file at Appling station, the precinct covering Marvell Locke’s various police dramas. These AoAs were signed by police and the defendant was left blank. Presumably these were intended to be distributed to business owners, who could sign over the existing police witness’ signature. This would be a clear case of fraud. Incidentally, we have a proven case where this writer’s name was added to an AoA at the Zoo over a several months old police signature. The lack of a proper system, controls and auditing of the AoA apparatus and its previous secrecy makes it prime for abuse.
  • We have an eyewitness account from an employee at the now-closed Cordova Animal Clinic, formerly at Fischer Steele Rd in the Appling precinct. When the owner complained to the police about a person of concern (not Marvell Locke), a police came, signed an AoA form and told the veterinarian to hang it in the office. This was not a valid AoA because the offender was not notified, the vet did not come to the station, and our database shows that no AoA was filed for the clinic. It is possible that this deficient procedure was used for the missing Marvell Locke AoAs.

Marvell Locke police victim.

Marvell was a poor Black man who was, according to his attorney Howard Manis and his relatives, mentally ill. He had certainly been a problem for local police and business owners, and is easily cast in the role of usual suspect.
Above all, he was the victim of evidence tampering by the police, in his previous prosecutions. He did time as a result of several November 2019 prosecutions. He was often a rambunctious presence in many local businesses.

Above all, the tragic case of Marvell Locke shows that the police are not equipped to deal with severely mentally ill people.

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