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

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

Sophie Carson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published 12:00 AM EDT Aug 1, 2020

Bernell Trammell spent his life starting conversations.

He loved hearing what passing strangers had to say. Trammell eagerly sought out discussion — 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 Pia Lombardi recalled Trammell saying.

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

But at a vigil for him Friday, his memory and message remained vibrant. Friends recalled his good nature and willingness to chat, and neighbors said the city lost an irreplaceable local character.

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

Because Trammell was outspoken about religion and politics — and supported President Donald Trump — 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 motivation made national news and gained traction on social media.

Lombardi said she even received an invitation to appear on commentator Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show.

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

Trammell also carried signs supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement and state Sen. Lena Taylor, a Democrat.

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

Malcolm Hunt, a chaplain for the Milwaukee Police Department, speaks and prays for his friend Bernell Trammell during a memorial vigil.
Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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

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

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

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

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

Trammell “gave freedom to everyone’s voice,” said Clayton Hotelling, a Milwaukee pastor and social worker. “It didn’t matter 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 opinions of all kinds without judgment — the willingness to hear someone out has been lost in today’s political discourse, he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trammell deserves for his killer 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 the building on East Wright Street. 

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

Contact Sophie Carson at (414) 223-5512 or scarson@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SCarson_News.

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NASA Mulls Next Steps for Boeing’s Starliner Astronaut Taxi After Shortened Test Flight | Space

It’ll be a little while before we know if the next flight of Boeing’s new will carry astronauts.

On Dec. 20, 2019, Starliner launched on an uncrewed mission called (OFT), which was designed to demonstrate the capsule’s ability to fly NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Boeing has been contracted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to do just that, as has SpaceX.

OFT was supposed to last eight days and feature an autonomous docking with the station. But Starliner suffered a shortly after liftoff and got stranded in an orbit too low to allow a rendezvous with the ISS. The reusable capsule ended up zooming around Earth by itself for 48 hours, then coming down for a picture-perfect landing in New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range on Dec. 22.

The original plan called for OFT to be followed by a crewed demonstration mission to the ISS. And that option is still on the table, despite the issues with December’s flight, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Tuesday (Jan. 7).

“NASA is evaluating the data received during the mission to determine if another uncrewed demonstration is required. This decision is not expected for several weeks as teams take the necessary time for this review,” Bridenstine wrote. 

“NASA’s approach will be to determine if NASA and Boeing received enough data to validate the system’s overall performance, including launch, on-orbit operations, guidance, navigation and control, docking/undocking to the space station, reentry, and landing,” he added. “Although data from the uncrewed test is important for certification, it may not be the only way that Boeing is able to demonstrate its system’s full capabilities.”

Bridenstine also announced that NASA and Boeing are forming a joint team to investigate Starliner’s timing anomaly and figure out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

“Once underway, the investigation is targeted to last about two months before the team delivers its final assessment,” the NASA head wrote. He added that Starliner is currently being transported from White Sands to Boeing’s facilities on Florida’s Space Coast, where the capsule will be examined in even greater detail.

The latest big Commercial Crew contracts were awarded in 2014. Boeing got $4.2 billion to finish development work on Starliner and fly six operational, crewed ISS missions. SpaceX got $2.6 billion to do the same with its Crew Dragon capsule.

Crew Dragon aced its version of OFT, the uncrewed , in March of last year. SpaceX is now gearing up for a crucial in-flight test of the capsule’s emergency-escape system, which is . If that test goes well, Crew Dragon would be pretty much cleared for Demo-2, a test mission that will fly NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the ISS.

Mike Wall’s book about the search for alien life, “” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by), is out now. Follow him on Twitter . Follow us on Twitter or

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