Late Thursday evening, July 7, 2016, I returned home and learned about the police shooting deaths of two African American men- Philando Castile, (killed in a St. Paul, Minnesota suburb) and Alton Sterling (killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana). For the five days leading up to Thursday I had not listened to radio, or television, nor had I accessed the Internet. So on Thursday evening I was saddened and shocked after turning on my television and learning about the tragic killings of Castile and Sterling.
Reeling from the news of the two men’s deaths I searched for information about the killings. I wanted to understand the circumstances that led up to the tragic loss of their lives. I was particularly burdened by the fact that Castile’s four-year-old daughter had witnessed her father being shot and subsequently watched him die. That fact alone, was mind boggling and shocking. I wondered how in the world a 4-year-old is supposed to process and recover from such a life altering experience, something that would be difficult for most adults to do.
When I awakened Friday morning, I was confronted with the awful news reports that Dallas police officers had been ambushed in a coordinated attack by at least two snipers using high-powered rifles. (That part of the report was later proven incorrect.) The reports went on to say that five of the 12 officers shot by the snipers had died. I was stunned and saddened by the news.
Upon hearing the news, I wanted to stay in bed and entertain myself by watching a good movie or engaging in deep theological though by preparing for an upcoming sermon. I wanted the privilege of incubating myself by denying and ignoring the awful reality that had invaded my world. But I didn’t do any of those things. Instead, I pondered questions about the events to which I didn’t know the answers.
Later in the day, sometime before the identity of the lone sniper was revealed, I listened to a news conference during which Dallas Police Chief David Brown spoke. Two things about the police chief’s remarks struck a chord with me. First, he seemed genuine. He didn’t seem at all like a Black person white people put out in front to calm and oversee other blacks. His words, “We’re [police officers] hurting,” rang true. His tone was measured and calm. Chief Brown spoke with authority when he described how the sniper was killed by a robot. He seemed respectful of and sensitive to the great task he had been given, to speak on behalf of the police force while respecting the citizens’ rights the police are paid to protect. Chief Brown reminded us that ALL LIVES, including those of police officers, MATTER. The chief did not call for peaceful protests to stop nor did he denigrate or taunt the innocent protesters calling for justice.
Chief Brown was the voice of reason at the appropriate time. His comments reminded me of the biblical principle emphasized by Reuben P. Job, “…Do good and do no harm.” Chief Brown is the right person for the position he is in at this time in history. His response to the tragedy proves that.
My hope is Chief Brown will not bow to pressure to change his tactics. He is on the right road headed in the right direction.
God help America and God help Chief David Brown!