Families Affected by Violence to Have MLK Day Conversation

Loved ones of a black man fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and two law enforcement officers -- one black and one white -- ambushed and killed in that city 12 days later will take part in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day discussion.

"I just feel like love is the key. If we just go about this loving one another and not judging one another, I feel as if things will be better," said Trenisha Jackson, whose husband, Montrell Jackson, described the difficulties of being both a black man and a police officer in a Facebook post days before his death. Trenisha Jackson will join in the conversation Monday in Dallas.

Omar Jahwar, CEO of the Dallas-based nonprofit Urban Specialists, said he hopes his group's event, which is billed as a conversation about the violence as well as racial issues in America, sends "a signal of unity out."

"What we're saying is that if we're going to make this work, we all have to be a part of this," said Jahwar, who is also a pastor.

He said about 1,000 people are set to attend, including King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, and Texas lawmakers U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat.

Alton Sterling was fatally shot on July 5, 2016, as two white police officers pinned him to the pavement outside a convenience store where he was selling homemade CDs. The killing of the 37-year-old Sterling was captured on cellphone video and circulated widely online, sparking demonstrations across Baton Rouge.

Trenisha Jackson said the protests were "very, very hard" for her husband. "It's like everybody was putting police officers in the same category instead of pointing out which officers were doing wrong," she said.

The national debate about race and policing became especially heated that summer. The day after Sterling's death, black motorist Philando Castile was shot and killed by a Latino police officer in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.

Then the day after Castile's death, five law enforcement officers were killed in Dallas when a black man opened fire at a protest against police brutality. Authorities have said the black Army veteran was seeking revenge for police shootings that killed or wounded black men and that he told negotiators he wanted to kill as many white police officers as he could. Police killed him after a standoff.

On July 17, 2016, a black military veteran killed three officers and wounded three others in Baton Rouge before he was shot dead. Baton Rouge police officers Montrell Jackson and Matthew Gerald were killed along with East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputy Brad Garafola.

Garafola's widow, Tonja Garafola, also will take part in Monday's discussion. Andricka Williams, the mother of three of Alton Sterling's children, will, too.

"I just have the same goal that everybody wants: which is to do better to bridge the gap, to try to come together, regardless of age, race, situation," Tonja Garafola said.

Williams said her 7-year-old son, Alton Sterling Jr., always loved police officers and still does.

"He always says, `Mom, I'm going to be one of those good police officers,"' she said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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