Dal­las po­lice re­spond to shoot­ing with proac­tive ap­proach

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY DAVID WAR­REN

DAL­LAS | Dal­las po­lice swiftly ad­mit­ted that a white of­fi­cer who shot a black man in his own apart­ment last week had made a mis­take. They ex­pressed con­tri­tion, turned the case over to in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors and reached out to the vic­tim’s fam­ily.

That proac­tive ap­proach ap­peared to tamp down anger in the com­mu­nity in the first few days af­ter the killing on Sept. 6.

There have been protests but no large-scale un­rest since the death of Botham Jean, a na­tive of the Caribbean is­land of St. Lu­cia who went to a Chris­tian univer­sity in Arkansas and worked in Dal­las for ac­count­ing firm PwC.

The killing by Of­fi­cer Am­ber Guyger — who told of­fi­cers she be­lieved the vic­tim’s apart­ment was her own — could have led to an “ex­plo­sive sit­u­a­tion” on the streets, said Fred­er­ick Haynes, pas­tor of a Bap­tist church in Dal­las and vice pres­i­dent of the African-Amer­i­can Pas­tors Coali­tion.

Mr. Haynes praised the ac­tions of Dal­las Po­lice Chief U. Re­nee Hall, who has been in her job only a year.

“She has gone out of her way to com­mu­ni­cate not only to the fam­ily but also to com­mu­nity lead­ers,” he said, “and as a con­se­quence that has helped keep calm.”

Killings of black men in re­cent years have prompted protests and some­times vi­o­lence in cities from Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, to Chicago and Bal­ti­more. Po­lice de­part­ments across the coun­try have scru­ti­nized how oth­ers have re­acted to learn how to man­age in such times of cri­sis.

Univer­sity of Texas-Dal­las crim­i­nol­o­gist and pro­fes­sor John Wor­rall said Dal­las po­lice of­fi­cials have taken steps to keep their work and data open to the pub­lic.

“As big de­part­ments go through­out the coun­try, I’ve been re­ally sur­prised at how open they’ve been with their data,” Mr. Wor­rall said Tues­day.

The shoot­ing of Jean hap­pened about 10 p.m. Thurs­day. Within seven hours, po­lice re­leased a state­ment that the of­fi­cer erred by en­ter­ing Mr. Jean’s apart­ment.

Chief Hall then held a press con­fer­ence early Fri­day af­ter­noon dur­ing which she ac­knowl­edged that “there are more ques­tions than we have an­swers,” but also said au­thor­i­ties wanted to ar­rest Of­fi­cer Guyger for man­slaugh­ter. She said the of­fi­cer’s blood was drawn at the scene to be tested for al­co­hol and drugs, and that the Texas Rangers would con­duct an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion. She added that she had spo­ken to Mr. Jean’s sis­ter to ex­press con­do­lences to the fam­ily.

Po­lice re­leased Of­fi­cer Guyger’s name on Satur­day af­ter lo­cal me­dia be­gan re­port­ing it, and she was charged with man­slaugh­ter Sun­day. By Mon­day, four days af­ter the shoot­ing, Dal­las County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Faith John­son gath­ered at a news con­fer­ence with mem­bers of Mr. Jean’s fam­ily.

“My com­mit­ment is that there’s al­ways go­ing to be equal jus­tice in this county,” Ms. John­son told re­porters, adding that a grand jury would hear the case and could de­cide on more se­ri­ous charges.

Mayor Mike Rawl­ings also quickly reached out to com­mu­nity lead­ers about the killing of Mr. Jean.

Not ev­ery­one is pleased with the re­sponse in Dal­las. Lee Mer­ritt, an at­tor­ney for the Jean fam­ily, said Of­fi­cer Guyger should have been ar­rested the night of the shoot­ing and she should have left the apart­ment com­plex in hand­cuffs.

Of­fi­cer Guyger was free un­til her ar­rest on Sun­day. She posted bond and was re­leased.

Alex Pi­quero, pro­fes­sor of crim­i­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Texas-Dal­las, said in­ves­ti­ga­tions can be a lengthy, la­bo­ri­ous process that may not bring an im­me­di­ate ar­rest.

“Whether they charge the per­son five min­utes af­ter it hap­pened, five hours or five days, the out­come is still the same, the charge hap­pened,” Mr. Pi­quero told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The bal­ance be­tween po­lice and the com­mu­nity is a del­i­cate mat­ter in Dal­las, where five po­lice of­fi­cers were killed in 2016 by a gun­man who was seek­ing re­venge for po­lice shoot­ings else­where that killed or wounded black men. The shoot­ings of the of­fi­cers gal­va­nized sup­port for law en­force­ment.


Mourn­ers con­sole each other dur­ing the view­ing be­fore Botham Jean’s funeral on Thurs­day in Richard­son, Texas. Mr. Jean was shot and killed by Of­fi­cer Am­ber Guyger last week.



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