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Memphis zoo, museums offer free admission to residents in wake of recent tragedies

A number of local attractions in Memphis are offering free admission Friday to help residents cope and recover in the wake of recent tragedies that have rocked the city.

The free offerings come two days after a crazed gunman killed four people and wounded three others in a series of random shootings across Memphis — and three days after the body of slain Tennessee heiress and teacher Eliza Fletcher was identified.

The shocking attacks have left many Memphians reeling.

“The people of our city were confronted with the type of violence no one should have to face,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said at a midnight press conference following the shooting rampage Wednesday.

A local reporter for Memphis NBC affiliate station broke down while reporting on the Wednesday night shootings, which were allegedly carried out by 19-year-old Ezekiel Kelly.

Ezekiel Kelly, 19, is accused of killing four people and wounding three others in a series of shootings — one of which he livestreamed on Facebook — in Memphis Wednesday.

WMC Actions News 5 reporter Joyce Peterson choked up after warning the public to shelter in place while Kelly remained at large.

“Memphis is tired right now. Yeah, I’m good, I’m with you all. Memphis is tired right now,” Peterson said after gathering herself. “The Eliza Fletcher kidnapping and abduction and murder, the other crimes we’ve had this year — it’s difficult right now.”

“Bear with me. It’s a very nerve-wracking night, it’s been a very difficult week,” she added. “They’re going to find this guy. Until they do, stay inside.”

Kelly, who had a criminal record that included attempted first-degree murder, was arrested at approximately 9:30 p.m. local time — ending his alleged shooting spree that began just before 1 a.m.

Many local stations have brought in therapy dogs to help reporters cope with the violence they have reported on this week, according to Twitter posts.

For the larger public, five cultural attractions are opening their doors for free as a way to encourage Memphians to relieve their minds of the recent violence for even just a short time.

Memphis Botanic Garden
The Memphis Botanic Gardens invited locals to the gardens for free Friday “for an opportunity to heal in nature.”
Memphis Botanic Garden/Facebook

The Memphis Zoo, Memphis Botanic Gardens, Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Museum of Science & History and Lichterman Nature Center are all offering free admission on Friday, Sept. 9.

“In the wake of the recent tragedies impacting our city, we want to offer a place to reflect and relax, even if it’s just for a moment,” the Memphis Zoo said.

Likewise, the Memphis Botanic Gardens invited locals to the gardens “for an opportunity to heal in nature.”

The director of Memphis Parks, Nick Walker, tweeted that the free admission to Memphians “fills my heart with so much joy.”

“Don’t let evil win,” Walker said. “Celebrate the city we all love!”

Memphis residents have also organized remembrance events for the victims of Wednesday’s shooting rampage as well as Fletcher.

Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped and later killed while on her morning jog at 4 a.m. last Friday.

Local church leaders hosted a prayer service Thursday outside the AutoZone store where Rodolfo Berger was shot and critically injured by Kelly, who livestreamed as he opened fire inside the store.

On Friday, more than 1,400 runners are expected to partake in a run in remembrance of Fletcher. The runners will complete the morning jog Fletcher, an avid runner, wasn’t able to finish last week after she was kidnapped and allegedly murdered by Cleotha Abston.

West Memphis will also honor shooting victim Allison Parker, a hospital worker reportedly killed by Kelly in front of her daughter, at a vigil at West Memphis City Hall Friday evening.

Memphis Mayor Strickland reflected on the violence that sent shockwaves through the city Wednesday night.

“This has been a painful week in our city, but I have hope for Memphis, I have love for Memphis, I know that united …..we will endure,” he said.

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