Watermelon vendor of 30 years killed during attempted robbery, police say
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/Gray News) – A watermelon vendor who has been selling fruit on a street corner every morning for the past 30 years was shot and killed on the job, police said.
Police in Memphis said that 76-year-old John Materna, affectionately known as “Red the Watermelon Man,” was shot during an armed robbery May 15 and died from his injuries Monday.
On Wednesday morning, police identified a 15-year-old as the suspected shooter. He is charged with first-degree murder, robbery, aggravated robbery, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.
Police said on the morning of the shooting, officers responded to the call and found Materna lying on the ground next to his watermelon truck, suffering from a single gunshot wound to his stomach.
According to Memphis police, two armed men shot Materna while trying to rob him. Materna fired a single shot back at his alleged attackers, but both suspects got back into a silver Infiniti and drove off with nothing in hand.
Materna was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. He died two weeks after the shooting.
According to his family, Materna has sold watermelons every morning from his truck on the same street corner in Memphis. They said he would use the extra cash to pay for cruises and vacations for himself and his wife of 43 years.
Police are still searching for the other suspect who fled the scene. Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.
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