DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The arrest of a Dallas police officer for the off-duty shooting death of a neighbor whose apartment she mistook as her own, has not quelled the rising tide of grief and anger in the black community.
“It is heartbreaking,” said Rev. Frederick D. Haynes, Senior Pastor of Friendship West Baptist church, reacting to the death of 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean. “We want this to stop! We really would like to feel served and protected by the blue: that’s what we are calling for!”
Rev. Haynes is also Vice President of the African American Pastors Coalition. The group gathered at police headquarters today to pray for the family, the police department and city leaders.
They’re also sending the message that their congregations have grown weary with the killings of unarmed black men by police.
“When we came to church yesterday, our members, some were very angry, frustrated,” said Pastor Bryan Carter, Senior Pastor, Concord Church, and the Coalition’s president. “And the tragedy around this one is that he is in his own home…and that just feels so wrong.”
About an hour later, the Next Generation Action Network gathered in front of Dallas Police headquarters to also press for transparency in the case.
“I can’t count on my hands how many times I’ve been in front of this facility, talking about a death,” said the group’s founder, Minister Dominique Alexander, gesturing to supporters gathered around him, “these people are here, because your babies are at home.”
Minister Alexander and others prodded Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to fund and empower a police oversight board, saying without consequences and repercussions “we will keep coming back here.”
While emotions ran high, the loss was also an emotional one for long time advocates in the community.
“I simply have not been able to sleep,” Diane Ragsdale, a former Dallas City Councilwoman. “We have to raise the question– why is it that this officer pulled the trigger so fast?” Ragsdale went on to suggest that it was the officer’s unconscious racial bias that allowed her to see a black man, suspect that he was a criminal and open fire…in spite of the fact that Jean was in his own apartment.
Although the voices varied in perspective and suggestions for solutions, all appeared to be tapping into the collective pain of a community, once again, asking ‘why’?
“He was in the right place, this police officer was in the wrong place and yet this young man is now dead,” said Pastor Haynes.
Both the faith community and community activists are asking for transparency and demanding justice for Botham Jean.