The meeting last week was intended to introduce Hispanic leaders to local families who’ve lost loved ones in police shootings. Everyone would discuss ideas for improving communication between residents and police.
But few leaders showed up. And communication between residents and the lone police officer who attended quickly grew volatile. Still, community activist Mary Perez, who’d organized the meeting at her restaurant, Enchiladas Ole, said she felt good had come from it. If nothing else, police learned that residents are watching them more closely.
The crowd that gathered in the Riverside eatery included relatives of Daniel Brumley, who died in January, as well as the family of Sixto Quezada, an unarmed man who was killed by police in 2013. Fort Worth Weekly reported on the circumstances of Brumley’s death in a recent cover story (“Blood on Whose Hands?” Feb. 25, 2015).
Residents expressed their fear that police violence is increasing locally at a time when it is becoming a growing national concern. They want officers as well as residents to be better trained on how to act during traffic stops. And they want police to be more open with information about shootings that involve officers. They didn’t invite police officials; they wanted to talk among themselves first. But Deputy Police Chief Charlie Ramirez heard about it, volunteered to attend and express his condolences to the families, and vowed to look into complaints.
Brumley and Quezada were killed during traffic stops in the Diamond Hill neighborhood. Relatives of both men say the shootings could have been avoided and accuse police of being tight-lipped, uncooperative, and rude. Quezada’s relatives say they’ve tried for two years to find out why police resorted to violence in pulling over their son. A grand jury declined to indict the officers involved, and police had closed the case.
The families appreciated Ramirez’ showing up but also peppered him with questions. Police are still investigating the Brumley case, and Ramirez told them he couldn’t discuss it. Ramirez explained to the Quezada family how to go about getting public documents related to that case.
Daniel Brumley’s relatives are still in shock over his recent death. The Quezadas are mired in anger and frustration. They say their son, unarmed and afraid of police and with a criminal record, tried to drive away during a traffic stop and was shot without provocation. Police say the 22-year-old man tried to hit an officer with the SUV he was driving.
Emotions ran high, and questions lobbed at Ramirez eventually turned into broad accusations of police misbehavior. Ramirez became visibly angry and defended the department.
“If you’re being cursed at [by officers], we don’t tolerate that,” Ramirez said. “We have IAD [Internal Affairs Division] dedicated to make sure officers do the right thing.”
Perez asked the crowd why none of them had filed an official complaint.
“Because they don’t ever do nothing,” a woman answered.
“That’s not true,” Ramirez said. “We do discipline. I’ve given officers days off and reprimands for being disrespectful or cussing at people.”
“That’s the whole reason for this meeting, Charlie,” Perez said. “They want to be heard about how they’ve been treated since these crimes. No answers in two years [for the Quezadas], and now this [Brumley] case seems to be going in the same direction. They’re afraid that nothing is going to happen, and then they’re going to be targeted.”