Fort Worth

Activist still shaken by ‘evil moment’ at deadly Dallas protest

Jeff Hood is a longtime advocate of gay rights, empowering blacks and abolishing the death penalty.

Because of his passion he is accustomed to receiving a threat or two each month.

But nothing prepared him for the barrage of abuse that came his way after the July 7 ambush in Dallas that left five police officers dead. Hood, who is white, helped organize and lead the Black Lives Matter march through downtown that preceded the shooting.

In the days after, Hood got “at least hundreds of threats every day and at one point it probably was like thousands a day.”

His media presence only added to it. Within hours of the deadly shootings, Hood received more interview requests from local and national TV news shows than he could count. He was later profiled in right-leaning media outlets such as Breitbart and Jihad Watch.

The haters came fast and furious.

The day after the Jihad Watch story was posted, one online reader wrote: “This guy sounds like your typical traitorous left wing scumbag who sympathizes with Muslims who execute their enemies, apostates, blasphemers, gays, and adulterers. ... He is an enemy of the state.”

Hood, who is married with five children and lives in Denton, said there were other posts that accused him of trying to bring jihad to North Texas and of being a homosexual.

Police increased surveillance in Hood’s neighborhood for more than a week because of the threats, said Shane Kizer, Denton police spokesman.

Denton police are familiar with Hood because in 2014, a rock was thrown through a window at his house.

Hood said he believes the rock was thrown because of a sign that read “End police brutality.” Hood said the sign was his way of showing solidarity with others who wanted to see those practices end. Later on, Hood put up another sign in his home office window that said: “The Confederate flag is racist.”

“That poster is a result of one of my neighbors putting up a Confederate flag,” Hood said. “It’s still up. I just said there are persons of color living in this neighborhood, there are persons from all over the world living in this neighborhood. I don’t want them to feel like they’re alone.”

‘Texas is a desert of apathy’

Hood said he came to Texas to attend Brite Divinity School on the campus of TCU. Stephen Sprinkle, Hood’s doctoral adviser at Brite, provided an example of how the Scriptures can play an important role in how a community responds to challenge, Hood said.

“When I came to Texas that’s when my activism ramped up because there are so few people doing anything out here,” Hood said. “In comparison to a place like Atlanta where there are tons of people, here there’s nothing. Texas is a desert of apathy and inaction.”

He said he finds peace at the small gathering in west Fort Worth, where a group of about 20 professionals — teachers, doctors, therapists — meet for prayer and fellowship every month.

“In that space I have found God in incredibly profound ways,” Hood said. “You know when beauty grabs you and I am thankful to regularly come down to Fort Worth to experience the beauty of God.”

He said those he worships with stand for the oppressed in their own way; such as the doctor who fights for pay raises for his nurses.

“I think that they feel they are going to do it and they are going to do it in their time in their own way,” Hood said.

‘I’m just not ready yet’

Hood said that protesters on July 7 did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. Hood has not participated in any other protests since.

It’s difficult to say how that experience will affect him in the future.

“I’m still dealing with the trauma of that night,” Hood said. “I’m just not ready yet.”

On July 7 a sniper, former U.S. Army Reservist Micah Johnson, shot and killed five law enforcement officers.

“No one expected a white guy to be leading that police brutality rally,” Hood said.

Dallas police deployed a bomb-toting robot toward Johnson and detonated the C-4 explosives, killing him. Johnson also wounded two civilians and seven law enforcement officers.

The Dallas police officers who were killed were Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a Fort Worth Paschal High School graduate and father who served three tours in Iraq; Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48, of Burleson and father of two; Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, a father of two from Carrollton; and Michael Krol, 40, a Michigan native who had lived in Burleson and Fort Worth.

Also killed was Brent Thompson, 40, of Corsicana, a father, grandfather and newlywed, and a DART police officer.

Hood said he had never met or seen Johnson.

“After the shooting you got to realize that people were scared,” Hood said. “We had come face-to-face with a real evil moment and survived.”

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3