Community Leaders Urging Calm Following Shooting | KERA News

Community Leaders Urging Calm Following Shooting

Jul 25, 2012

City leaders and members of several South Dallas churches are calling for calm the day after an officer shot a citizen and neighbors poured into the street.

City council members are asking residents to keep a level head and let the police do a thorough investigation. But some residents feel their anger is more than justified.

People who gathered at the Dixon Circle Missionary Baptist Church bowed their heads as a pastor led them in prayer.

They listened quietly when Dewana Session, aunt of fatally shot James Harper, made a plea for support and respect.

“We ask that each and every one of you at this time respect our wishes. And at this time, let’s wait on the facts, and when the facts come in then we’re going to all get here again and rally, and do what’s right,” she said.

Despite the calm outside the church, it was clear many residents are still very angry.

Some people who live in this neighborhood near Fair Park say to police, their reputation is guilty until proven innocent. Resident Cassandra Geurra doesn’t hold back when calling the police “trigger happy.”

“What needs to happen is the communities need to organize and have their own community watch, their own cop watch,” she said. “If there’s a problem within the community it needs to be solved within the community without having to call the police, because obviously they come in and kill first before they do any investigations.”

Officer Brian Rowden followed Harper on a foot chase that included physical fighting. Police say Rowden shot Harper because he feared for his life. No gun was found on Harper, but police say he told Rowden, “You’re going to have to kill me.”

Dallas Police Chief David Brown is promising a full investigation.

“He was by himself with no cover close and had to do whatever he felt appropriate, which we will review. It’s not the officer that makes the decision,” Rowden said. “Our review, the D.A., the grand jury all make the decision what he had to do was appropriate or not.”

While some community members say this is a case of excessive force, others, including District 7 Councilmember Carolyn Davis, are urging people to wait and see.

“I’m asking everybody just to have a level head in this situation,” Davis said. “Let’s get all the facts. I’m not going to jump to conclusions.”

There were 13 officer involved shootings in Dallas last year, and this event makes 14 so far in 2012.

With tempers running hot in South Dallas, Davis and other public officials say they hope to open a better line of communication between law enforcement and the community.

“I think that’s where I would like to go with this after the investigation is over, having some type of workshop where people can understand you and the law," Davis said.

Davis believes better communication is the key to reducing tensions.