In Ferguson's Wake, Dallas' Law Enforcement Leaders Faced an Angry Crowd Last Night

town_hall_meeting.jpg
Sky Chadde
DA Craig Watkins talks to families of victims of police shootings after his town hall meeting Monday night.
Zion Hayes, 14, stopped wanting to become a police officer last month. Until then, he had so much enthusiasm that he had his mom, Audrey Hayes, threw him a police-themed birthday party. But a run-in with a real Dallas officer changed Zion's career goals. Following a noise complaint at the house where he lives with his mom and two younger brothers-- Hayes says her sons had friends over who where playing loudly -- Zion says two white officers knocked on the door, and one younger brother let them in.

The officers walked to the back room, where Zion sat. He says he turned away from them, but the female officer tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. When Zion turned back, he says, "I had a very, very strict face on." But, "I was careful not to ball my fists," because, he says, "if I ball my fists then you feel like I'm threatening you." Zion kept his arms down and his palms open.

"As soon as I stood up," Zion says, "[the male officer] said, 'Oh, you want to ball with me?' and flipped me." Zion was now on the ground, with his mom and brothers watching. The male officer, Hayes says, was about six-two, 180 to 200 pounds. Zion is 5-2, about 120. The room went quiet. Hayes says she felt helpless and believes the officer used excessive force.

The man put Zion in handcuffs and escorted him to the squad car. "They wanted to take me to the juvenile detention center," he says, "when there was no fight." After a car ride to a detention center, Zion says, was released because no charges were filed against him.

Hayes told this story at a town hall meeting with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, Police Chief David Brown and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez at downtown's St. Paul United Methodist, the city's oldest black church, last night.

See also:
- Tonight in Dallas, Craig Watkins Will Discuss His Plan to Investigate all Police Shootings

"I have three sons, and they're young, African American males," Hayes said, "and I wanted (Watkins and Brown) to be able to hear directly from them what their experience has been like with the police department." One of her younger sons had been flipped and handcuffed on a playground about four years ago, when he was 9.

As the meeting began Monday night, Hayes settled into a pew on the far stage-left side of the small church, her view of the two men, who sat at a table beneath a large wooden cross, partially obscured by a cameraman. The pews were full, with many looking on from the second-floor balcony. The crowd mostly black, with a few white faces sprinkled throughout. There was respectful silence as the pastor said a prayer, then Watkins started things off: "Dallas is a great place," he said. "We're not Missouri."

The three law enforcement officials each gave a short speech, focusing on restoring the public's trust in the very institutions they represent. The crowd applauded when each finished. Then, people lined up to ask the officials questions. Hayes joined them, flanked by her three sons.

The respectful silence turned to loud frustration as the questioners routinely talked past the two-minute time limit, with no question included. Debbie Denmon, Watkins' media relations director, tried to calm the audience each time, invoking the sanctity of the church.

About halfway through the meeting, a man asked, "When are we going to indict an officer (who shot a suspect) to send a message out?"

Watkins, leaning forward with his elbows on the table, spoke into his microphone. "I really do appreciate your passion," he said, "but over the last year we've indicted three police officers for shootings."

The crowd rumbled. They seemed to be questioning when the officers would face justice.

"They're still under investigation," Brown said, sounding exasperated.

The crowd whooped.

"Let me ask you this," the district attorney said. "I think it's a little disingenuous that you would laugh because the job we have to do is very difficult and we have to change the culture that we're dealing with at the DA's office."

The crowd's collective voice began to rise again.

"Can I finish?" Watkins asked. "Can I finish? So, you didn't laugh when we exonerated 33 men since I've been district attorney."

A woman in line to ask a question began speaking into the microphone before her, angry at Watkins' response.

"It doesn't help that you're angry at me," he said. "It doesn't make sense that you come to my house and picket. Are you saying that I'm not doing my job?"

A loud "No" erupted from some in the crowd. The woman at the mic shouted that Watkins hadn't sentenced any cops, and Watkins had to explain that he couldn't bypass the jury system. Assistant DA Heath Harris grabbed the mic and told the woman they would have to escort her out if she didn't calm down. The crowd was quelled, and another person expressed anger over the police "killing our innocent young men."

"I understand the frustration," Watkins said. "And I understand that children have been lost. I really do respect the passion that is in this room, but you are basically attacking the person that's going to make the difference. Can you let me do the job?"

The crowd clapped and cheered.

"Let me do my job."

The night continued in this vein, with new anger arising with every new question and the officials calming the room. The last question was from a 17-year-old black man, who said his trust in the police was rattled after being followed home one day.

"Let me point out the obvious," Watkins answered. "Chief Brown and I are African American males who grew up in Dallas. We've both experienced the same things that you've experienced. We bring those experiences to the positions we're in right now."

When the last question was asked, Hayes was several people back from the microphone. Not having an opportunity to have her boys' stories told, she shouted above the din. But her voice wasn't heard. Instead, Zion took center stage.

"Excuse me!" he shouted, cutting through the noise. "Excuse me!" The church fell to silence. "We didn't come here to stand. We came here to be heard." The crowd clapped. "I want to speak."

Hayes took over, declaring that she be allowed to speak.

Denmon, the DA's spokeswoman, spoke over her. "We are having a separate meeting, ma'am. I know you stood in line, but this will not be the last town hall meeting. I am sorry that everybody did not get to talk. I know there's a lot of pain in this room. Do you think this is easy to sit up here and be accused that they don't care? They do care, otherwise they wouldn't be here."

She handed the pastor the mic, and he settled down the crowd. ADA Harris wondered into the pews to find Hayes. He told her there would be another town hall meeting and he'd ensure she got to speak, Hayes said. He handed over his contact info and promised to pass on that of Watkins and Brown. They're more accessible than people think, she says he told her. As everyone stood and the pastor gave the ending prayer, Harris held Hayes' hand.

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.



Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
50 comments
noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

Let me ask a question:  Would you want any of these vocal, angry, blacks to be police officers, DAs, or Sheriffs?


Of course not.  They are either no intelligent enough, or objective enough, to make calls based on the facts, and not on their emotions. 


I still have absolute trust in black police officers, because I believe they do not represent law enforcement to "even the score".  So far, my beliefs have been proved out.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

This is patently absurd, race-baiting, and unfair characterizations of law enforcement. 


Nationwide, there are many thousands of black-on-black and black-on-white and black-on Hispanics shootings.  They don't seem to bother anyone or come to the attention of the Justice Department. 


By contrast, there are only about 404 police shootings annually, and most of these are adjudicated to be justified. 


What's going on in Ferguson is simply caused by an angry and aggressive black man who was a criminal, had robbed a store, had assaulted a clerk, and who had threatened a clerk. 


This same man brutally attacked a police officer, did serious damage to him so that he had to be taken to the hospital, tried to get the officer's service revolver, and then left and then charged the officer and wouldn't stop or lie down on the ground. 


So what kind of ignorant S.O.B. blames the police officer for what happened?


We need to put the right monkey on the right back.

JohnJoseph
JohnJoseph

There is no excuse for trigger happy cops. But we don't know enough about what happened in Missouri to determine who is to blame. What I would also like people to remember is the officers rushing to the World Trade Center or to the scenes of the mass shooting at schools, shopping centers, etc. They are running into danger and helping other escape. Often officers are asked to deal with issues families can't deal with such as a mentally ill or violent relative. Each shooting incident must stand on its own. But the coverage has been very one sided and as usual there is little or no explanation of what constitutes legal use of deadly force.    

HistoryBuff
HistoryBuff

This is why it is necessary to have professional, well trained police officers and police units qualified to take care of the worst scenarios: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Hollywood_shootout

These don't happen often, thank God, but when they do there is great potential for extreme collateral damage on the part of the perpetrators. Over 2,000 rounds expended between the very well armed and armored suspects and police, with the police initially being badly outclassed.

OxbowIncident
OxbowIncident

What is this insatiable need from local media to turn Dallas into Fergason or vice versa? Its as is they are begging for a race riot here to make us a "world class city"  like L.A. or Chicago because while there is indeed racial strife, and always will be, there has never been a race riot in Dallas. 

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

Watkins saying, "...you didn't laugh when we exonerated 33 men since I've been district attorney." reminds me of Jerra asking if you like those three Super Bowls.  None the less, I'm glad Watkins showed a little piss & vinegar attitude to his constituents.

Voot
Voot

I'm surprised the obvious solution has yet to be offered, that the citizens of Ferguson be allowed to live and shop among themselves without any interfering police presence whatsoever.

Waitaminute
Waitaminute

Why would someone turn away when two police officers walk in. Why would he have his "very strict face on?" Why not just say hello or can I help you? Why were they making so much noise a neighbor complained? 


There is a little more to this story.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

We've reached a tipping point where no city in America will be untouched by the rage against militarized local police forces that have trigger-happy racists among their memberships.  The days of tolerating brutal police behavior have to end before there is peace for anybody.  Cops that kill unarmed American citizens must be brought to justice, because what is happening in Ferguson today will happen over and over again and our own country will join the growing list of war zones around the world.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@bvckvs

Did you love George Bush?

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@OxbowIncident During the Civil Rights era, the black community in Dallas and the white leaders in the city, got together and agreed to resolve any differences through discussion and two-way dialogue. 


Black pastors, such as Rev. S.M. Wright, worked diligently with the white community to get good jobs for blacks, and to keep the police and sheriff's deputies calm and respectful. 


Dallas had some lunch counter protests, but no riots or even boisterous demonstrations. 

Even today, there is a great deal of effort to improve the southern side of the city, and there is excellent dialogue in public forums and council and county commissioners' meetings to solve problems. 

St. Louis should try that. 

James080
James080

@OxbowIncident 

These are valid questions, because there have been numerous police shootings over the past 24 months where the suspect was unarmed or non-threatening.

James080
James080

@Waitaminute 

Last time the police turned up at my house and told me there had been noise complaints, I apologized and promised to turn down the noise, which I did. Young Zion took a different tact, playing the street tough little bitch, disrespecting the police, and the police seemed to have over-reacted. But why the bad-ass posing?  If my parents ever saw me disrespect a cop when I was 14, they would have torn me a new one.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Myrna, I am seriously opposed to the militarization of police departments.  It's a serious mistake, and one that breeds contempt by citizens.  But, they are only part of the problem. 


The black communities of America, once prided for their strong family values, religious values, and work ethics, have deteriorated since the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  And, today, part of the problem is the disease of "entitlement" that has broken out among blacks and poisoned their social progress. 


I believe we have got to find a way to get everybody back on the same page, and speaking the same language.  Too many politicians, like Obama, have sought to benefit from creating divisions in the country.  When you pit blacks against white, and Latinos against Republicans, or Jews against Christians, you divide America rather than playing to our strength as "One nation....".

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

I fear it may be inevitable. What gets lost here is the fact that police organizations understandably want to be armed at least as well as the worst criminal that they are likely to face in order to be effective.

In an age where technology leaps have made it relatively easy and inexpensive for criminal organizations to arm themselves as if they were para-military, law enforcement has naturally tried to keep pace.

The psychological impact of turning cops into soldiers is one of the unintended consequences of this escalation.

JohnJoseph2
JohnJoseph2

@bvckvs @JohnJoseph You miss the point. We don't want to militarize the police but we want them to be well armed when they have to go into a school with an active shooter or face bad guys with automatic weapons. The incident in Missouri will stand on its own merit.  

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@bvckvs

It's like saying that because a black man somewhere in NYC committed a crime, Mike should be thought of as a criminal, as well.

Mike Brown was a criminal.

HistoryBuff
HistoryBuff

Ferguson is a cluster#%^€. The officer may or may not have exercised poor judgement and the deceased may or may not have exercised poor judgement. The result is one person died, so one or both parties indeed exercised poor judgement.

All that is certain is the aftermath involves people who cannot know what happened feeling they know everything, while local and state police cannot effectively do their jobs because if anyone else dies then the court of public opinion will decree they are fully at fault.

The only solution is for the protesters to stop protesting and allow the situation to settle. The officer may or may not be found guilty of a laundry list of possible offenses, but it is certain he will never work in law enforcement again.

Lots of folks have decried the militarization of police departments. That may or may not be appropriate, but if police departments are going to use this grade of equipment then all officers using that equipment must train extensively and exhaustively in order to not make the kinds of mistakes seen in Ferguson's aftermath, and occasionally elsewhere in the U.S. My previous example of the California bank robbery is an excellent example of why, to a limited extent, police departments need this level of firepower.

OxbowIncident
OxbowIncident

@James080 @OxbowIncident I get that. I do. Why not keep talking about and understanding those incidents rather than bring in some shithole town in Missouri to the mix. The fact that we haven't had riots over (wishfully) similar incidents, shows that the people in Dallas on both sides are of a different caliber.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@James080 @OxbowIncident And at least here, the victims families and neighbors were given some info on the case.  The whole FErguson issue happened bc they didnt want to release any info on the shooting, which by the way DPD union dude Pinkston advocates for a cooling off period.  

Guesty
Guesty

@James080 @Waitaminute "But why the bad-ass posing?"  The same could be said of the police.  I understand police concerns about safety, but there is something else going on as well.  Some police are obsessed with compliance from the people they encounter, even when they have no cause to demand compliance.  I respect the police, but the police are not entitled to lay a hand on a citizen because they were "disrespected."  Just writing that shows the police have many of the same machismo "street tough" issues of the people they sometimes encounter. 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@James080 @Waitaminute It's the job of the police to deescalate, not to decide to get into a pissing match about being "disrespecting".  They are supposed to be the adults in the situation.


That said, the first mistake was letting the cops in.  Repeat after me: "Come back with a warrant."

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk

The militarized police were pulled back, and other than the following evening, the violence persists.

Apparently, communists, ISIS and Hamas supporters, International ANSWER and every other left-wing whacko nut job bunch are being drawn to Ferguson, and the community wants them to go away. Can't argue with that.

It seems the Nation of Islam and some various black groups are attempting to flush the lefty parasites, should get interesting.

Charlie
Charlie

@TheRuddSki If that video had showed a crime, then a. the store would have reported it, b.  the friend he was with the whole time would have been arrested, c. not only would we know the name of the officer, he would have gotten an award, and d.  That video would have been released in time for the 5pm news on the night it happened.  As it was, the police didn't even review the tape for 5 days, and they cut the middle portion that shows brown paying for his stuff.  What it DOES show is the store clerk committing unprovoked assault as he laid hands on brown first.  Brown, from a legal standpoint in that video was defending himself.  So kindly go fuck yourself if youre gonna make shit up about my city and region.

Charlie-St. Louis, MO

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@HistoryBuff Whatever happened to the American notion to let the investigation be completed before reacting one way or the other? 


The problem here is that Johnson, the suspect's accomplice, blatantly lied about what happened and lied about the officer.  So, this is what initially stirred up blacks almost like Pavlov's dogs. 


The truth, and actual evidence, and over a dozen eye-witnesses, tend to support the officer's version of events, and prove Johnson to be an utter liar.

tdkisok
tdkisok

@bvckvs 


Don't talk shit about Tea Baggers.........Ruddy is on that like white on a Republican..

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@bvckvs

Your stupid statement I responded to had nothing to do with Ferguson either.

Now, did you or did you not LOVE the Bush Government?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin  The days of the Code of Silence must end, or, as I said before, America will become just another bleak war-torn country.

James080
James080

@Guesty 

I don't disagree, but the police are well armed and armored, and have the power of the police state behind them. Most of them are professional, but lets face it, the profession attracts a fair amount of officers suffering form "little man disease."

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@TheRuddSki Pretty sure I saw st Louis county police and their armored vehicles last night, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@TheRuddSki

Yes, it seems that the people of Ferguson are actively trying to isolate the troublemakers. I thought that it was pretty cool when the protesters actually got between the police and the troublemakers and quelled the unrest before the police were forced to escalate.

The larger point is still there, though. The militarization of the police definitely has psychological ramifications for the police and the public they serve.

We're not in Mayberry, anymore, Andy.  

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@Charlie @TheRuddSki I won't get into what a fine representative of your city you must be, but you certainly seem typical of some of the denizens of Ferguson. 


You only know about the seconds of the video that shows Brown walking out and the clerk trying to stop him and make him pay for the merchandise he stole.  But, store video also exists of Brown taking the package of cigars.  And, Johnson admits Brown did the robbery and handed the cigars over to him to carry.


You should check the facts before shooting off your mouth.  But, you're perfectly free to prove that point.  


The good news is, if you're arguing on a computer, at least your not on the streets and stealing from stores.  


Good job!

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@HistoryBuff Oh, Charlie.  I'm sure you didn't learn this in reform school, but the Gadsden flag (Don't tread on me) had to do with a message to the British.  It was designed the year before the Declaration of Independence was signed.  The Constitution was ratified in 1789, and that's the first moment the U.S. began to exist. 


The Gadsden flag had long been replaced by stars and bars, and has nothing to do with anything today.  We're under the Rule of Law, and America's citizens became superior to its central government through the U.S. Constitution.

Charlie
Charlie

@noblefurrtexas @HistoryBuff Do you think that this black man who is currently making the racist police department look bad would be walking free if they could find something on him? If an actual robbery had taken place, he would have been arrested as an accomplice.  Keep your "expertise" limited to things you know about, for instance, the inside of your ass, given how much time your head spends up it.  Also what happened to the American notion of "don't tread on me!"?  Oh right, the darkies aren't entitled to that, its only for the snowy white.  ASSHOLE!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz It will only take one misguided youth to shoot a cop in Ferguson to cause all out war in Ferguson, and frankly, Im surprised it has not happened yet.  Even though 99% of those portesters may be peaceful it just takes one 

JohnJoseph
JohnJoseph

@James080 @Guesty I would like to know more. How big was the 14 year old kid. Did he appear to be about to attack the female officer. Did he jump up? Lots we don't know. Many officers are hurt dealing with family issues. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

I think that may be the Nat'l Guard?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

Could be, but the demos are meant to be over the shooting, and now it's about Palestinian rights and whatnot.

Even Amnesty International is on the scene now, because the police have been using tear gas, creating a "human-rights crisis".

Maybe the UN will send in the white Toyota Land Cruisers.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk

It's really different issues.

Kudos for community members for keeping the professional parasitic left at bay.

noblefurrtexas
noblefurrtexas topcommenter

@Charlie @noblefurrtexas @HistoryBuff LOL!  When you blow it, you really blow it.  Thanks for proving my point. 

But, speaking of not knowing the facts, the officer originally asked Brown and his friend to get out of the middle of the street because of traffic, and get on the sidewalk.  He didn't know anything about the robbery and assault at the store. 

Had Brown and Johnson complied, they could have gotten away before the radio call to that officer to investigate the robbery. 

But, Brown and/or Johnson mouthed off to him and said they were not getting out of the street.  When the officer went to get out of his car, Brown - who is 6'4 and 300 pounds - pushed the officer back into his car and began beating him. He also grabbed the officer's gun.  That much is known and not in dispute.  Even Johnson admitted it, and witnesses saw it. 

Black are entitle to the same constitutional rights as whites; no more, no less.  They are also entitle to the same presumption of innocence as white people, Asians, Hispanics, and others. 

Johnson was an accomplice to the robbery, and received stolen goods.  But, the police can pick him up if they want him.  And, there's no crime to run around lying to the public and the media about something.  

Don't worry; Johnson is going to be prosecuted, but Brown was the main actor and the truly bad guy. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@TheRuddSki Wait, I thought those Land Cruisers were in Texas last week, or at least that what some whackos were posting on FB

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@TheRuddSki

Agreed on both points.

But this is the crucible in which that experiment will be performed. How will we ultimately adjust to the shift? We've seen that militaristic presence met with resentment (not completely unjustifiably, IMO) and watched as the police and the protesters, unwisely, escalated the violence in the face of that.

We've also watched as protesters policed their "own" and watched as the police, in turn, de-escalated in response. Good results on all fronts, there. Seems we may be learning something on both sides, here.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

The UN might have been in Texas recently, moving the borders and trying to broker a two-state solution to the diaper crisis.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...