[Marxism] Fort Worth Police Have More Violence to Answer For, Residents Say

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 20 10:56:41 MDT 2019

NY Times, Oct. 20, 2019
Fort Worth Police Have More Violence to Answer For, Residents Say
By Manny Fernandez, Sarah Mervosh and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

FORT WORTH — Before there was Atatiana Jefferson, there was Jackie 
Craig, a black woman who called the police to report that her white 
neighbor had grabbed her son — and found herself pinned to the ground by 
the officer who responded.

There was Henry Newson, a black man who had just been discharged from 
the hospital and was waiting for a ride home when two officers working 
security questioned why he was there. He refused to leave, and a white 
officer punched him in the face.

There was Craigory Adams, also black, who knocked on his neighbor’s door 
late one night carrying a barbecue fork — to keep stray dogs away, he 
said — and the neighbor called the police. A white officer pointed a 
shotgun at Mr. Adams but said he wasn’t meaning to fire it. He did, 
striking Mr. Adams in the arm.

These names and others have all been brought up again in the days since 
Ms. Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman, was shot and killed in her 
bedroom this month by a white police officer who was standing outside 
her window. In the largely black and Hispanic neighborhood in southeast 
Fort Worth where Ms. Jefferson lived, and in others nearby, many 
residents recalled times when they had tried calling the police — and 
ended up sorry that they did.

“This is not an isolated incident,” said the Rev. Kyev Tatum, who is 
part of a coalition asking the Justice Department to investigate 
“over-aggressive policing” in Fort Worth’s communities of color. “This 
is historic and it is systemic, and we understand that racism is at the 
heart of this.”

The long-simmering tensions boiled to the surface this month after Ms. 
Jefferson became the sixth person to be killed by the Fort Worth police 
since June. Four of the six were black.

Five years after a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., stoked a national 
debate over race and policing, Fort Worth is far from the only community 
where residents complain that the conversation in their city never 
really went anywhere.

In Dallas, just 30 miles east of Fort Worth, a similar case played out 
tragically over the past year: A white off-duty police officer was 
sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this month after she mistakenly 
entered the apartment of a black neighbor, Botham Shem Jean, and shot 
him to death while he was watching television.

“There’s a pattern,” said Ms. Craig, 49. “They want to say that it’s not 
racially motivated,” she said. “It’s just obvious to the eye that it is.”

Ms. Jefferson’s death drew hundreds to a vigil outside her house in Fort 
Worth. At City Hall, protesters held signs reading “Say Her Name.” And 
on the Democratic presidential debate stage last week in Ohio, Julián 
Castro brought up Ms. Jefferson’s death to discuss police violence.

Fort Worth has a storied history as a Western outpost — it lives up to 
its Cowtown nickname with twice-daily cattle drives in the historic 
district — but today, the nation’s 13th largest city is in some ways two 
different places, divided along racial and economic lines. It is home to 
the Walmart heiress Alice Walton, the wealthiest person in Texas, but 
neighborhoods like Ms. Jefferson’s are dotted with abandoned homes.

Most of the police force, about 65 percent, is white — as are the mayor, 
the city manager, a majority of the City Council and now the police 
chief, after the department’s first black chief was fired earlier this 
year. Black and Hispanic residents, who together make up a majority in 
the city, complain that they often feel ignored by city leadership, and 
unfairly targeted by the police. Black residents on their own make up 
about 18 percent of the population, but they accounted for 40 percent of 
arrests in 2017.

The latest turmoil began after midnight on Oct. 12, when Ms. Jefferson 
was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew. Two officers 
responded to a neighbor’s report that her doors were open. As Ms. 
Jefferson grabbed a gun from her purse, one of the officers fired the 
fatal shot through a bedroom window without identifying himself, the 
police said. The officer, Aaron Y. Dean, who quickly resigned, now faces 
a murder charge.

 From the beginning, city officials knew the case was going to be unlike 
any of the previous police shootings. The mayor, Betsy Price, said the 
interim police chief, Ed Kraus, called her at about 6:30 a.m., and told 
her the essence of what had occurred overnight.

“He just said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to be pretty,’” Mayor Price 
recalled. “‘It’s too early. I don’t have the details yet, but it looks 
like the wheels fell off.’”

Public resentment had been building for years. In interviews, many 
residents said they knew people who had been shot, shocked by stun guns 
or wrestled by the police. At least four highly publicized encounters 
have been documented in video footage and lawsuits. Some of those 
officers have faced criminal charges and left the department; others 
remain on the force.

‘Why Don’t You Teach Your Son Not to Litter?’

One of the first cases to incite outrage was Ms. Craig’s arrest in 
December 2016.

It started with flavored raisins. Ms. Craig’s 8-year-old son dropped 
some raisins onto the street outside her white neighbor’s house. The man 
grabbed her son by the back of the neck and pushed him down to pick up 
the raisins, she said.

Ms. Craig called 911 and a white officer, William Martin, responded. As 
seen in body-camera footage and cellphone videos, one of the first 
questions Officer Martin asked was, “So why don’t you teach your son not 
to litter?” After Ms. Craig told him that her neighbor did not have the 
right to put his hands on her son, whether or not he had littered, the 
officer asked, “Why not?”

As Ms. Craig grew agitated, he added, “I’m just asking.”

Officer Martin told her that if she did not stop yelling at him, “you’re 
going to piss me off, and I’m going to take you to jail.”

Moments later, the officer pushed aside one of her daughters, Jacques 
Hymond, who was 15 at the time, pulled out his Taser and pointed it at 
Ms. Craig as he forced her to the pavement. He later handcuffed and 
arrested Ms. Craig, along with Jacques and Ms. Craig’s other daughter, 
Brea Hymond, who was 19 at the time.

Ms. Craig said she had hoped her arrest would serve as a warning of the 
need to make changes in the police department. A task force appointed by 
the City Council examined issues of race and culture in the police 
force, but major reforms never happened. The officer was suspended for 
10 days but remains with the department.

“I believe it will continue, because I’m not seeing any consequences 
behind the actions that these police officers are taking,” Ms. Craig 
said. “If there’s no punishment behind it, why not keep doing it?”

“There’s a pattern,” said Jackie Craig, 49, who had called the police 
over a neighbor’s threat to her son and was arrested herself, along with 
her teenage daughters, in 2016.CreditAllison V. Smith for The New York Times
Another incident occurred in August 2017, when Dorshay Morris called 911 
to report that her boyfriend was drunk and threatening to kick in her 
door. She had a knife in her purse to protect herself.

The two officers who arrived made her feel like a criminal, she said. 
When she refused to give them her ID, the officers grabbed her by the 
hair, and Sgt. Kenneth Pierce, who is white, ordered a rookie officer to 
shoot her with a Taser. She was taken into custody and charged with 
resisting arrest and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She said 
she spent four days in jail. The charges were later dropped. Sergeant 
Pierce was fired, but was reinstated after he appealed.

“I never was supposed to be arrested,” Ms. Morris said in an interview 
this week. “I was the caller.”

Six Fatal Police Shootings

So far this year, Fort Worth police officers have fired shots at nine 
people, killing six and injuring two. The fatal shootings have all 
happened since June, and are more than the department had in the 
previous two years combined.

Policing experts caution against extrapolating from one year of data — 
the numbers can fluctuate from year to year — but six fatal shootings is 
more than most police departments in similarly sized cities have 
recorded. For example, in Indianapolis, police have fired at three 
people this year, killing one. And in San Francisco, police have not 
fired a gun at anyone this year, a spokeswoman said.

In one of the fatal cases in Fort Worth, an officer shot a white Army 
veteran who had barricaded himself with a rifle in his father’s home. 
The police said they thought he had pointed the rifle toward them when 
he was shot, but in fact, it was a flashlight.

In another scrutinized case, an 18-year-old black man who was a person 
of interest in a homicide was killed while holding a gun and running 
from the police, according to video footage. Activists noted that he was 
shot in the back.

In each of the fatal shootings this year, the victims were armed. In 
several, they had barricaded themselves inside a home or vehicle in a 
standoff with the police. Still, four of the six victims, including Ms. 
Jefferson, were black, and community members have questioned whether the 
police could have done more to de-escalate or avoid risk.

“Just because they had firearms doesn’t warrant a death sentence on the 
street,” said Pamela Young, an organizer who is pushing for community 
oversight of the police department.

The mayor and police officials have apologized for the killing of Ms. 
Jefferson, which they condemned as inexcusable. City leaders said that 
they planned to bring in an outside team of experts to review the police 
department, and that they were working on other changes to improve 
diversity and accountability.

“Please, do not let the actions of one officer reflect on the other 
1,700,” Chief Kraus, who has been on the job since May, said during an 
emotional news conference. “There’s absolutely no excuse for this 
incident, and the person responsible will be held accountable.”

In an interview, Mayor Price said she had heard from some black 
residents who said they feared the police so much that they would no 
longer call them for help. She was deeply worried by that sentiment. But 
she flatly rejected the idea that the city’s white leadership was not 
engaged with black residents.

“I am in the minority community more than anywhere else,” the mayor said.

The tensions gripping the city were on full display on Oct. 15 when 
residents poured into City Hall for the City Council’s first meeting 
after the shooting — so many that a large, frustrated crowd was forced 
to wait for hours outside.

Many residents demanded to know not only what the city was going to do 
for the family of Ms. Jefferson — who many call “Tay” — but for everyone 

“You mentioned that we need to provide Tay’s nephew with anything he 
needs,” Jen Sarduy, a black Fort Worth resident, told the council. “He 
needs his aunt alive. He needs to not have witnessed her murder. He 
needs the city to be equitable and just and safe.”

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