There were echoes of Ferguson, Mo., at Grapevine City Hall Tuesday night in response to the slaying of an unarmed Mexican national by one of that city’s police officers.
A City Council meeting crowd chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot!” — the cry originating with demonstrators in Ferguson, where a policeman’s fatal shooting of a an unarmed black teenager erupted into months of unrest.
This time, the crowd was denouncing the Feb. 20 killing of 31-year-old Ruben García Villalpando after a brief police pursuit and traffic stop.
Police say García got out of his car with his hands up but failed to obey Officer Robert Clark’s order to stop walking toward the officer. Clark shot García twice in the chest.
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As in cities across the country where there have been much-publicized police shootings, family members of the victim and area residents have been calling for “justice.”
Justice should be the aim of any law enforcement investigation, but often in these tragic incidents police and members of the community initially differ on what that means.
Police in Euless, where the traffic stop and shooting took place, are conducting an investigation. Grapevine police have said they are doing an administrative investigation.
Grapevine City Manager Bruno Rumbelow and Police Chief Eddie Salame, issued a statement to residents Tuesday saying , “In order to conduct a fair and impartial investigation, the investigating agency [Euless Police Department] has refrained from releasing material such as the dash cam video of the incident or other information at this time.”
The statement noted that when investigators’ work is complete, the information will be given to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office and ultimately to a grand jury — a process that “typically takes a number of months.”
Thorough investigations, as this one must be, can take a long time to complete.
But law enforcement and civil authorities must recognize that prolonged inquiries often add to the anxiety in communities, bringing more questions, rumors and distrust.
Given that the dash cam video has been shown to members of García’s family already, authorities ought to make that footage (along with any context they want to provide) available to the public sooner rather than later.
Officials in Grapevine, according to their statement, believe that once the community sees the video it will “answer many questions and correct some misconceptions about this incident.”
The tension is not likely to lessen in this case until more facts are presented to the public, especially as long as the nation continues to focus on other high-profile incidents around the country.
A call for caution is appropriate, but so is a call for expediency in answering to the public.