FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Church leaders and residents in the city’s Stop Six neighborhood will get the chance to tell police their concerns after an officer shot and killed a man February 28, 2011.
Charal Thomas, 32, was pulled over last Monday at a convenience store on Fort Worth’s eastside. When Officer J. Romer tried to arrest him for outstanding warrants, police said Thomas refused to get out of the SUV, rolled Romer’s arm up in the window of the vehicle and dragged him for two blocks.
Romer then shot Thomas, killing him in front of three of his children who were also in the vehicle, investigators concluded.
The incident has outraged members of the community who believe Thomas’ death and the situation could have been avoided.
Community leaders have now requested a meeting with the police chief to discuss their concerns about this incident and previous encounters with officers, Thursday.
“The outcry we’re hearing from within the community is to the long history within the community of there being a perception that the police department treats our community differently than other communities,” said Rev. Kyev Tatum with the Fort Worth Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “We cannot continue to have this perception that there are two types of justices in Fort Worth, one for the ‘haves’ and one for the ‘have nots.’”
Tatum said their concern goes beyond Thomas’ death. He pointed to the death of Michael Jacobs, Jr., a 24-year-old black man who died in police custody in April 2009 after he was shot with a stun gun.
The City of Fort Worth ended up approving the largest cash settlement ever offered for a death-by-injury court case.
“We have to move beyond blame and shame and get to a point where there can be a sense of reconciliation,” Tatum said.
That’s exactly what the Fort Worth Police Department hopes to accomplish by meeting with Stop Six residents and church leaders, Thursday evening.
“This is how you learn more about your police department,” Chief Jeff Halstead said, “Instead of wondering what are they doing? Since Monday, since the shooting, what has happened?”
This week’s meeting is the first step toward a more connected Fort Worth, but Tatum believes police need a better understanding of the black community and its culture before change can occur.
“We believe Fort Worth is now positioned to heal and build,” Tatum said. “That cultural competence will help you handle and diffuse situations better.”
Police leaders are hoping together they can do that, and move past the fatal shooting that brought them to this point.
“Our message that we want to deliver is unity in the community and their police department will be there for them,” Halstead said, “not just in this incident but as we progress and build stronger relationships.”’
Organizers of Thursday’s meeting gathered at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Dock Bookshop on Meadowbrook.
Their objective was to move beyond the anger over the Charal Thomas shooting and unite the numerous community groups that have come forward during the last week.