Bernell Trammell death: Milwaukee shooting victim’s memory stays alive

He ‘gave to everyone’s voice’: A week after shooting of Bernell Trammell, friends keep his legacy alive

Published 12:00 EDT Aug 1, 2020

Bernell Trammell spent his starting .

He loved hearing what had to say. Trammell eagerly sought out — on sidewalks, homemade signs in hand, and through submissions to his publication, eXpressions Journal.

“Everybody has a voice. Everybody’s voice has power,” longtime friend Lombardi recalled Trammell saying.

When he was shot and killed last week outside his Riverwest office, Trammell’s own voice was silenced, Lombardi .

But at a vigil for him , his and remained vibrant. Friends recalled his and willingness to , and neighbors said the lost irreplaceable character.

“Milwaukee, the east , Riverwest — we’ going to miss him. Because he was very vocal,” said resident

Because Trammell was outspoken about and — and — some suspect he was targeted for his beliefs. Prominent conservatives have called for a federal investigation into his death, and the suspicion of a political made national and gained traction on media.

Lombardi said she even received an appear on ’s show.

Milwaukee have not released any about possible motives for the killing.

Trammell also carried signs supporting the and Sen. Lena Taylor, a Democrat.

Those who knew Trammell said they ’t know why he was killed and can’t understand why anyone would shoot him. More than a week after his death, they ’t have any answers. Police have asked the ’s help in looking for a suspect in the shooting and have offered a reward for tips. 

Hunt, a for the Department, speaks and for his friend Bernell Trammell during a memorial vigil.

Nate of Milwaukee called Trammell a “gentle beast” who was genuinely interested in hearing different .

About 15 years ago, Fox used to see Trammell around Riverwest, dressed in a leather jacket and leather chaps.

“He didn’t like a very approachable ,” Fox laughed. “But if would actually have a with him you would see that he’s genuine, that he would hear you out.”

Fox, an atheist at the , started going to Trammell with questions about religion. He didn’t know many , and Trammell never judged him, he said.

Eventually Fox converted to . He credits Trammell for those eye-opening conversations that challenged his on what of looked and acted like.

Trammell “gave freedom to everyone’s voice,” said Hotelling, a Milwaukee and social . “It didn’t where you were from.”

In the 1990s Hotelling used to read eXpressions Journal and even submitted his artwork to the publication a few times. He appreciated that Trammell gave a platform to of kinds without judgment — the willingness to hear someone out has been lost in ’s political discourse, he said.

Hotelling was driving with a friend on the east side two days before Trammell’s death and him on the holding a Trump sign. Hotelling honked his horn, and Trammell gave them a thumbs-up.

“It touched our because that was the last time we saw him,” Hotelling said.

Bernell Trammell of Milwaukee takes a with his cellphone while with , Bernell Trammell Jr., 7, at a control burn at Bertschy Kadish in Milwaukee on 7, 2013. Trammell was fatally shot outside his office in Riverwest on July 23, 2020.
/ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

also saw Trammell shortly before his death — she estimates about 30 minutes prior.

Holland maintains church gardens in Riverwest and headed last to Trammell’s shop to plant some flowers in his flower beds. She left him laughing, promising to water the that evening.

Then from her Holland heard what she were firecrackers. She followed police to the scene and saw paramedics performing . But she knew Trammell hadn’t made it.

“A whole chill came over me,” she said.

Trammell deserves for his to be found, Holland said. Somebody in the neighborhood knows something, she said, pointing to the surrounding apartments and homes.

And Trammell deserves for his legacy to live on. Lombardi, who lived with Trammell in the 1990s in the apartment above his office, plans to buy on East Street. 

She wants to continue eXpressions Journal. Trammell’s voice may have been silenced, but he’d want Milwaukee to keep talking.

Contact Carson at or scarson@.com. Follow her on at @SCarson_News.

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