Police in Dallas squelch dissent after sniper attack
DALLAS — The day after five Dallas officers were killed by a sniper, the city’s police chief described the men as “guardians” of democracy, praising them for protecting the freedom to protest at a l arge demonstration against police brutality.
President Barack Obama later eulogized the slain officers, saying they died while defending essential constitutional rights.
But nearly two months after the shootings, police have moved to silence critics and squelch lingering questions about the attack. Officers in riot gear have been told to ticket protesters who block or disrupt traffic, and Police Chief David Brown has refused to meet with demonstrators unless they agree to end their marches through downtown, which he says pose a threat to officers.
Authorities have also refused to release even the most basic information about the slayings, including any details about the weapons used, the autopsy findings and ballistics tests t hat could establish whether any officers were hit by friendly fire. Police have indicated that such information could be withheld almost indefinitely.
In addition, the police department’s most vocal, visible critic — a 27-yearold self-styled preacher with a criminal history — has been arrested multiple times in the last month on warrants that include unpaid traffic tickets and attempts to revoke his probation from a 2009 felony. On Friday, Dominique Alexander was ordered to prison.
“Why all of a sudden are we the target?” asked Damon Crenshaw, vice president of the Next Generation Action Network, which organized the pro- test that took place on July 7, the day of the shooting. “We’re not protesting because we’re mad at them. We’re protesting because the problems still exist and they won’t talk to us.”
Crenshaw said Alexander was targeted because of his protest activities and that the shooter, Micah Johnson, was not affiliated with their group.
Alexander, the founder of the protest network, believes he was targeted because he refused to stop the demonstrations.
“They try to hush and silence people,” he said. “It would be a failure to the lives lost if we don’t continue. The issues still exist, and they can act like they want to heal, but then they ignore the issues.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement that he trusts Brown’s “judgment in how he communicates with protest organizers.”
Alexander, whose record includes convictions for forging a check, evading police and theft, was on probation for a 2009 conviction for causing injury to a child. He said the 2-year-old he was watching had fallen off the couch, but hospital staff said the child’s injuries were more consistent with abuse.
Alexander spent the past two weeks under house arrest, awaiting a judge’s determination of whether his probation would be revoked.
“No new crime has been committed to warrant this kind of action,” said Kim Cole, one of Alexander’s attorneys. “And the timing does appear suspicious.”
Just days after a July 29 silent protest, authorities asked that Alexander’s probation be revoked for a variety of violations, including twice leaving the state without notifying his probation officer. Court records show the judge admonished Alexander and added 30 hours of community service to his sentence.
Then on Aug. 10, following a confrontational appearance at a city council meeting, Alexander was cited for trespassing and escorted out of City Hall, where officers were waiting to arrest him on nine traffic ticket warrants. He spent the night in jail and, within an hour of his release, another arrest warrant was issued in a new attempt to revoke probation. That request rehashed previous allegations, including missed meetings with his probation officer.
At Friday’s hearing, the judge considered all of Alexander’s probation violations and sent him to prison for two years. With credit for time served, that comes t o about si x months, his attorneys said.
Dominique Alexander believes Dallas police targeted him because he refused to stop demonstrations in the city.