Community leaders emphasized the need for more transparency in the Fort Worth Police Department at a meeting the day after a fatal shooting by police spurred protests in the city.
Monday night’s meeting had already been planned by the Tarrant County Coalition for Community Oversight before Sunday afternoon’s shooting of a 20-year-old man. After Fort Worth police fatally shot the man on East Berry, hundreds of people gathered on the street in protest.
At a vigil Monday night, the man was identified by family as JaQuavion Slaton, 20, of Grambling, Louisiana.
About 70 people attended the community meeting, which started at 7:30 p.m. with people sharing their experiences and thoughts on policing in the area.
One speaker was Tamequa Muhammad, who said Sunday’s shooting happened in her back yard.
Muhammad said her grandchildren were playing in the front yard when she looked around her fence and saw an officer with a gun in his hand. She watched as more officers surrounded a truck, which Slaton was hiding inside.
Muhammad said police broke the window of the truck and shot about 10 times at Slaton. Her husband, Stephen Muhammad, said he does not feel police took his family or the community’s safety into consideration because they offered no warning. The Muhammads also said they did not think police tried to negotiate with Slaton before shooting him.
“Even if the young man did something, still it didn’t warrant a death sentence,” Tamequa Muhammad said.
Many other speakers demanded police release the body camera footage from Sunday night’s shooting.
Members of the Tarrant County Coalition said Sunday night’s shooting is one example of why Fort Worth needs a board run by community members that has oversight over the police department. The board would have “an active role in police accountability.”
Mindia Whittier, a leading member of grassroots organization United Fort Worth, said the Tarrant County Coalition proposed the community oversight plan to the city, but the city council opted for a citizen review board instead. She said the review board would not have direct oversight of the police department and would instead be run by a police monitor.
Pamela Young, another organizer of Monday night’s event, said city officials say the purpose of the citizen review board is to create trust in the community, but Young said the city does not know how to create that trust.
“Trust doesn’t come when you come and give ice cream cones to the kids. It doesn’t come when you do cute little videos on the internet. It comes when you have transparency; when you have accountability. And that’s the difference between what we’re proposing and what the city is proposing,” she said.
Young said the Tarrant County Coalition can help teach the city how to foster trust between the community and police.
“This oversight board is not about hunting down cops and getting revenge. This is about fair and equitable policing in our communities. It’s about transparency and accountability,” she said at the meeting.
Sunday night’s shooting was the fourth officer-involved shooting so far this June.
Shootings by Fort Worth police:
▪ On June 1, a SWAT officer fatally shot a man who police say had barricaded himself in his father’s house on Sixth Avenue after he pointed a rifle at officers. Cody Seals, 38, was shot when he came back out of the house holding an object in a “shooting stance,” police said. Police later determined the object was a flashlight.
▪ On June 5, a Fort Worth police officer shot a burglary suspect he had been trying to handcuff when the man charged at the officer in the front yard of a house on the city’s south side, the police department said. The officer first tried to use a taser, but the suspect pulled out the wires, police said. Esteban Vasquez, 27, was shot in the upper torso and was in critical condition at a hospital, police said.
▪ Also on June 5, an officer shot at murder suspect Martin Charles Wilson while trying to arrest him in the killing of his uncle James Wilson Sr. Martin Wilson was holding a cellphone while running toward officers but was pretending it was a gun because his cousin was shooting at him, police said. The murder victim’s son was the other person who shot at Martin Wilson, police said. No one was injured, and both Martin Wilson and James Wilson Jr. were arrested, police said.
▪ On June 9, officers fatally shot Slaton, 20, who was suspected in an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon case. Slaton ran from police and got inside of a truck. Police say he was “non-compliant” and shots were fired. Police said Slaton had a handgun and that evidence suggests he fired it.
The police department’s standard procedure is for officers involved in shootings to be placed on administrative leave. Fort Worth Police Major Case detectives and the Internal Affairs unit investigate such shootings and submit their findings to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office for review once the investigation is complete.