Were officials too quick to tie Texas deputy shooting to Black Lives Matter?
Law enforcement officials have arrested and charged a man in the shooting of a Houston deputy. The motive remains unclear.
Texas authorities have charged a man with killing a uniformed sheriff’s deputy at a Houston gas station Friday night.
Law enforcement officials on Saturday arrested Shannon J. Miles, of Cypress, and charged him with capital murder in the fatal, “execution-style” shooting of Harris County deputy Darren H. Goforth, NBC News reports. Deputy Goforth was filling up his patrol car at a Houston Chevron gas station when the gunman approached from behind, opened fire, and fired again as Goforth lay on the ground, according to Reuters.
While the motive behind the shooting remains unclear, officials were quick to link the incident to Black Lives Matter, the series of demonstrations against police misconduct. Goforth was white, Mr. Miles is black.
"We've heard black lives matter; all lives matter. Well cops' lives matter too," County Sheriff Ron Hickman said at a news conference following the arrest. "At any point where the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen[s], this rhetoric has gotten out of control.”
Authorities took Miles in for questioning early Saturday, after deputies found the shooter’s suspected vehicle – a red, extended-cab pickup truck – parked in Miles’ driveway less than a mile away from the scene, The Houston Chronicle reports.
Miles, who has not identified any motive for the shooting, has previously been convicted of resisting arrest, trespassing, and disorderly conduct with a firearm, according to CNN.
Harris County district attorney Devon Anderson, who appeared with Sheriff Hickman, also pushed back against widespread criticism of police. “There are a few bad apples in every profession,” she said. “That does not mean that there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.”
Despite ongoing efforts to improve relations between law enforcement and black communities across the nation, tensions remain high between police and the public. From Ferguson, Mo. to New York City, high-profile, violent confrontations between officers and unarmed black men and women continue to be the focus of calls for sweeping police reform.
In Texas, State Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D) of Houston criticized Hickman’s remarks.
“It strikes me as politicizing a death that, I don’t know that anyone knows what was in the mind of the shooter,” said Rep. Coleman, who is leading an inquiry into the death of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman found dead in a Waller County jail cell in July, according to the Times.
“I think black lives matter,” he continued. “I think deputy sheriffs’ lives matter. But I think the statement shows a lack of understanding of what is occurring in this country when it comes to the singling out of African-Americans.”
At least one of the movement’s leaders has also criticized Sheriff Hickman’s comments as misguided.
“It is sad that some have chosen to politicize this tragedy by falsely attributing the officer's death to a movement seeking to end violence,” civil rights activist DeRay McKesson tweeted.
Still, the shooting – which shocked the suspect’s neighbors as well as Harris County, the most populous in Texas – could be an opportunity for the community to come together. On Saturday night, hundreds attended a vigil for Goforth, who leaves behind a wife and two children and whom colleagues described as a passionate officer and a family man.
"We need a lot of healing rather than anger," Houston police Lt. Roland De Los Santos, who met Goforth decades ago, told KPRC Houston. "We need for the community to understand that most of us are out here to help. We really are out here to do good."