Groups Call For Fort Worth Chief's Resignation

Grand jury declines to indict officer in shooting

By Chris Van Horne
|  Thursday, Sep 8, 2011  |  Updated 6:43 PM CDT
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A group of community leaders called for Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead's resignation after an officer shot and killed Charal Thomas in front of his children in February.

Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 News

A group of community leaders called for Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead's resignation after an officer shot and killed Charal Thomas in front of his children in February.

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A Tarrant County grand jury chose not indict a Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a man in front of his children six months ago.

The news came just an hour after a group of community leaders called for Chief Jeffrey Halstead to resign.

The Rev. Kyev Tatum of the Southern Christian Leadership Council of Tarrant County called the grand jury's decision "shameful."

Members of the Black, Brown & Tan Caucus and the Community Leaders Coalition voiced frustration over what they said are systemic problems in the police department's training, recruiting and supervision of some officers.

"We are standing with our other partners and calling for the chief of police to resign because he's demonstrated ineffective leadership with a department this size," said Luther Perry, founder of Umoja and a former Fort Worth police officer.

The groups say the shooting death of Charal Thomas in front of his three young children on Feb. 28 near Interstate 820 on Cravens Road is just one of many concerning incidents.

The group said it was not satisfied with what the chief and others had to say at a community meeting a few weeks after the shooting. They said no improvements have been made after months of trying to help the department and local police associations make necessary changes.

"And everybody has backed away from the table as if we're diseased, and we're sick and tired of it," Perry said.

Fort Worth police would not comment on the call for Halstead's resignation. In a statement regarding the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Sean Romer, Halstead said he hoped the community could move forward.

"I am committed to preserving the public's trust in our police department," Halstead said. "Public trust is the backbone of public safety, and it is crucial for all of us to respect the judicial process that plays a vital role in securing democracy and freedom."

The Fort Worth Police Officers' Association commended the grand jury's decision in a statement at police headquarters and asked for the community to support it.

"We sincerely hope that the leaders of our community stand with us in peaceful and constructive support of this decision," said FWPOA President Sgt. Rick Van Houten. "And we look forward to building long-held relations with communities and community leaders."

But the groups said they will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the police department, something they asked for two previous times. They also called for Romer to resign.

Van Houten said Thomas' actions forced Romer to use deadly force. Thomas rolled up the window on Romer's arm and struck and dragged him with his vehicle.

Community leaders also called for the Fort Worth City Council and mayor to take action.

In a statement, Mayor Betsy Price said she hoped the community could move on after the grand jury's decision.

"Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the tragedy of last February," she said. "While we can't undo what happened during that traffic stop, we can make sure that all the facts are thoroughly reviewed to determine if our officer acted within the law given the unfortunate circumstances. Both an internal investigation and a grand jury of citizens concluded that to be true. The judicial system has run it's course, and as we move forward, I hope our community will remain committed to working together and promoting an open dialog."

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