What Happened In Dallas May Point To Bigger Issues, But Not The Ones You’d Expect
By Ron Hosko, LELDF President
On September 6, Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger got off duty, parked on the wrong floor of her apartment building’s garage, entered another person’s apartment, and allegedly shot the occupant, Botham Jean, dead.
Initial reports of the event suggested that Guyger mistakenly believed she was entering her own apartment and may have believed Jean was an intruder or a burglar to whom she gave some police commands then shot when he failed to comply.
As the public began to learn more of the victim, the event took on an even more heartbreaking tone. Botham Jean was a hard-working Pricewaterhouse Coopers employee, a respected member of his community and church, someone who “gave back” through charitable endeavors.
In fact, Jean seemed like the antithesis of men whose lives have been lost in violent encounters with police, so many of whom led lives of crime, or who attacked police and others, or who engaged in acts which plainly risked their own lives or the lives of others.
Dallas police, and subsequently the Texas Rangers assigned to conduct the investigation, had a pressing question to answer: “How could this happen?”
Unfortunately, they could never answer quickly enough because few hours passed before the issue of race began to take center stage. Not because any facts pointed to race as a factor; because opportunists did.
Not long after the shooting and as if right on cue, attorney Benjamin Crump arrived in Dallas to stand next to Jean’s grieving mother before the cameras. And with the carpetbagger and opportunist came his early judgment on the case — “We’re still dealing in America with black people being killed in some of the most arbitrary ways, driving while black, walking while black and now we have to add living while black.”
It was classic Crump — don’t wait for an investigation to reveal the truth, dive right in and point to race as the central issue.
Four years ago, Crump wasted little time getting to Ferguson, Missouri, as the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson began to attract the national media. And when, just a few days later, it was revealed that Brown likely committed a strong-arm robbery minutes before the fatal encounter with Wilson, Crump was at the ready with his version of the truth.
He said, “It is smoke and mirrors. Nothing, based on the facts before us, justifies the execution-style murder by this police officer in broad daylight.”
Benjamin Crump didn’t have the least concern about “the facts before us” in Ferguson because the truth didn’t matter to him. His purpose was different: it was to divide, to bend or deny plain facts, to posture, to threaten, and ultimately to participate in the inevitable settlement between the municipality and the grieving victim’s family.
As Ferguson demonstrated to anyone capable of rational thought, Mike Brown’s strongarm robbery of a convenience store wasn’t “smoke and mirrors” at all, and there was exactly zero credible evidence that Brown was victim of an “execution-style murder.”
Crump’s incendiary comments in Ferguson, as in Dallas, are meant to divide — to stir those inclined to march or burn or destroy while posturing himself as a reasonable voice for the oppressed, and ultimately to enrich himself through the agonizing tragedy of others.
The Guyger case, meanwhile, may well provide a different cautionary tale that should resonate across the country. Early reporting indicates the young officer had just left a 15-hour work day. Fatigue impacting her judgment and perception could prove a pivotal factor in the incident.
If the fatigue of a single or back-to-back overtime shifts, rather than race or inexperience or drugs or alcohol, proves to be a probable cause of Officer Guyger’s fatal misjudgment, municipalities across the country better be paying attention.
Police understaffing, exacerbated by retirement-eligible officers rushing to the exits, mainstream and social media negativity toward the profession and the concomitant dwindling recruitment pools that are being reported across the country have added stress to often stretched police forces.
The inevitable result is that the remaining workforce will face mandatory overtime shifts, canceled vacation days and less and less time to rest or decompress from already demanding work shifts.
Dallas is among the departments facing these realities, which pose risks to police and citizen alike.
None of that, though, will moderate premature and prejudiced criticisms of police by opportunists like Benjamin Crump. He understands the impact his inflammatory remarks can have on the inevitable settlement amount a city will offer. That’s why he comes.
If Officer Guyger’s judgments that fateful night were clouded by work-induced fatigue or exhaustion resulting from serial or mandatory overtime shifts, expect that millions of Dallas city tax dollars will fill Crump’s carpetbag as he exits, his work done.
That price should serve as a clarion warning to others similarly situated.
Ron Hosko is president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and a former FBI assistant director.