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Dreadful in Texas

Editorials

10/18/2019, 6 a.m.
We are dismayed by news out of Fort Worth, Texas, that Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old African-American woman babysitting her nephew ...

We are dismayed by news out of Fort Worth, Texas, that Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old African-American woman babysitting her nephew in her own home, was shot and killed by a police officer as she stood near a window.

The tragic events unfolded just days after a jury in nearby Dallas convicted a white former police officer in that city of walking into the apartment of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old African-American accountant, and shooting and killing him because she mistakenly thought it was her apartment and that he was a burglar.

The proliferation across the nation of police officers shooting and killing black people has instilled fear and mistrust of law enforcement within the African-American community. Initially it was “Driving While Black” or “Walking While Black.” These two incidents now take those fears to a higher level with the reality that one can be killed simply for “Being in Your Own Home While Black.”

We join the Jefferson and Jean families, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations in calling for independent investigations into both situations, including the sudden shooting death of Joshua Brown, a key witness in the Botham Jean case who was poised to testify in the Jean family’s wrongful death civil suit against the City of Dallas.

We believe justice must prevail. We were bolstered by the charge of murder placed against the Fort Worth officer who resigned from his job on Monday. We also were bolstered by the jury in the Dallas case sentencing former officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison for Botham Jean’s murder.

Police officers in departments and agencies across the country must understand that they will be held accountable for their actions. But law enforcement agencies’ policies and practices concerning use of force also must be reviewed and overhauled and racial bias — implicit or explicit — must be rooted out.

We renew our call for the Richmond Police Department to establish an independent citizens review board to investigate any and all police shootings and to handle complaints from the public. This should be done before Richmond is involved in a police shooting like those in Dallas and Fort Worth and public sentiment forces Richmond City Council to put such a board in place.

Communities must be assured that full, fair, transparent and independent investigations will be carried out in order to stop the erosion of public trust that such devastating and dreadful events as Dallas and Fort Worth have brought.