Last week, an unidentified suspect shot 60-year-old Bernell Trammell in front of his Milwaukee store, where the black business owner had stood with “Vote Trump” signs for an interview hours before. Trammell had a history of preaching on street corners and earlier that week, he had carried a “Vote Donald Trump” sign through the streets of Milwaukee, calling on the black community to rally behind the president. Police are investigating the shooting, and while the motive remains unclear, detectives are considering the possibility that Trammell was targeted for his political beliefs.
“I am Bernell Trammell, I am at my office at the Expressions Journal publication, and I am encouraging afro-Americans from all walks of life and culture here in Wisconsin, particularly here in Milwaukee, to vote Donald Trump for this year, Trump 2020,” Trammell told The God Degree in an interview a few hours before he was shot.
Trammell was known as “the Ras” because he was an outspoken Rastafarian. He would preach on the streets, urging Americans to repent. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Rastafarianism developed in Jamaica during the 1930s, combining “Protestant Christianity, mysticism, and a pan-African political consciousness.” Trammell did not just support Trump, he also carried a sign for a former mayoral candidate, State Sen. Lena Taylor, who is black.
“No less than two hours after I left from filming Ras Bernell I had heard word from Facebook that the someone in the area that Ras Bernell stays in had been shot. To my surprise, it was Ras Bernell. The moment I had read the news I was attempting to upload the above videos used in this post onto my laptop for use,” Adebisi Agoro (who goes by the pen name Armstrong Ransome) wrote at The God Degree.
“Unfortunately before I could get both the videos uploaded and the post completed, Ras Bernell Tremmell died from gunshot wounds inflicted earlier this afternoon. He was murdered right outside of his shop where we were just speaking. His home. Seemingly these were his last words,” Ransome added.
The God Degree writer noted that he had seen a photo of Trammell carrying a pro-Trump sign on Facebook, with another man following behind him with a sign reading, “SIKE!” (as in, “tricked you!”). Ransome ran into Trammell at a bus stop on Wednesday and decided to ask him about the photo. The Rastafarian told Ransome to stop by his office on Thursday.
In the store, Expressions Journal, Ransome found a wide variety of signs quoting the Bible and championing black identity. Among other signs, the store had a sign reading, “Mulattos Lives Matter,” a twist on “Black Lives Matter.”
Reggie Moore, director of the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he had “intervened in a dispute between Trammel and a young man” that he thought was “related to a Trump sign that Trammell was carrying.” Moore said Trammell was “a Black elder who didn’t deserve to die the way that he did.”
Law enforcement sources told The Dan O’Donnell Show that it is impossible to know the motive behind the shooting since the suspect is not yet in custody, “but detectives are investigating the possibility that Tremmell was killed over his political beliefs.”
Some said Trammell “was shot in the head” execution-style.
Bernell Trammell was shot in the head execution style broad daylight yesterday in front of his store. He was a God fearing Trump supporting man. Was it because he was a Trump supporter? He didn't look for fights, he lived a good life. Sick and sad! @GovTonyEvers get it together! pic.twitter.com/Y75V7UODZM
— Stephanie Lee (@Stephan47781670) July 24, 2020
The Republican Party of Wisconsin has asked U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger to open a federal investigation into the shooting.
“It is tragic to learn of the senseless murder of Bernell Trammell, and I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends. Because of Trammell’s well known political activism and the possibility that his murder could be politically motivated, I respectfully request that United States Attorney Matthew Krueger open an investigation into this heinous crime,” Andrew Hitt, the party chairman, said in a statement. “No American should fear for their personal safety because of where they live or their political affiliation.”
“Bernell Trammell was known to many in Milwaukee. My condolences to his family and friends. I hope they get answers and justice soon,” tweeted Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).
Bernell Trammell was known to many in Milwaukee. My condolences to his family and friends. I hope they get answers and justice soon. https://t.co/XciQwmlMuJ
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) July 25, 2020
It seems highly probable that this heinous shooting had something to do with Trammell’s vocal street preaching and his support for President Donald Trump. Yet perhaps for that reason, it seems unlikely the Black Lives Matter movement will chant his name.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.