Tampa Mayor & Police Chief respond to Dallas shootings

Bob Buckhorn Eric Ward
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (left) and Police Chief Eric Ward talk to media about the shooting of police officers in Dallas. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (8 July 2016).

Five police officers were killed by gunfire in Dallas Thursday night at a peaceful protest march protesting the shootings by police of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn called a press conference Friday morning with the city’s police chief to show solidarity with the Dallas officers who were killed.


“Now, make no mistake, this was a calculated massacre of law enforcement personnel. There is no other description of this. This was done by design. This was done with malice. This was done with hatred. This was done with intent and there will be a price to pay. For our officers and for Chief Ward and I, whose job it is to make sure that those officers get home every night safely to their families, we are going to take the appropriate precautions to make sure that they are safe.”

The Army says the suspect in the Dallas police shootings served in the Army Reserve and did one tour of duty in Afghanistan. The Army says Micah Xavier Johnson was a private first class from March 2009 to April 2015. The Army says Johnson deployed to Afghanistan in November 2013 and returned in July 2014. He was killed by a robot-delivered bomb during a standoff with police.

Buckhorn says the city has come a long way since race riots three decades ago.

“We’re not perfect. As long as you’re dealing with human beings, in these circumstances, as those who protect and those who are protected, you’re always going to have a dynamic on any given night, in any given city in America, something like this could happen. But, I think it’s those decades of work, on that issue and those relationships, that have allowed us to survive and to grow and to not have these types of circumstances.

“Do we have incidents? Absolutely we do. Absolutely we do. Are there bad people in the community that would kill a cop in a heartbeat? You bet there are. Are there cops who will make the wrong decision and who have biases? You bet there are. They’re human beings.

“But, I think this community has done so much more over the last 30-years, to get to this point. But, I will tell you this, like any city in America, we have a whole lot more to do.”

In addition to the five Dallas Police officers who died, seven officers and two civilians were shot and injured by what the Dallas police chief says was a lone sniper with a high-powered weapon who was unaffiliated with any group. Mayor Buckhorn agrees with many Democrats in Congress that stronger gun laws are needed.

“I think getting the guns out of the hands of the bad guys, getting a congress that would actually act on some measure of gun violence. I mean, these officers on the street are dealing with folks who are armed and who are inclined to use it. Most of whom, are not permitted to purchase a weapon. So, I think anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the fact that there are too many guns on the street, in the hands of the wrong people and that some appropriate gun violence prevention measures are needed, is a fool.”

Many violent police encounters have been filmed by citizens with mobile phones. Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward says it’s okay for people to take video when police pull a resident over for a traffic stop.

“We don’t have a problem with that. I’m confident that our officers are trying to do the right thing, every day. So, somebody capturing video during a traffic stop doesn’t intimidate us, doesn’t concern us. We are very open and transparent. Part of that process is making sure our officers are well trained.

“So, I put a big emphasis on the training of our police officers. Putting them in those scenarios that could be volatile so that there first encounter with our community–they’ve been through those situations and they know how to appropriately react to them. I think having these officers prepared for those types of scenarios, those situations is the key.”

Ward says his department has put measures in place to make sure officers and the community are safe.

Meanwhile, Tampa SDS is holding a rally demanding justice for two black men who were killed by police this week. It’s Saturday at 6:00 p.m. at downtown Tampa’s Gaslight Square Park.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report


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