The first Fort Worth police officer to kneel with protesters Monday night to diffuse a volatile standoff was a “little nervous,” but considered the gesture a “symbol of trust and unity,” the officer says.
Downtown bicycle officer David Yancey was one of the many cops who came face-to-face with an angry crowd Monday night outside the historic Tarrant County Courthouse.
It was a standoff. And it grew more tense by the minute.
Police told demonstrators they were violating curfew and ordered them to leave.
Protesters refused to budge.
At one point as the situation escalated, they invited officers to kneel with them.
“Just take a knee, just take a knee,” they yelled at officers, even offering to go home if they would.
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Yancey, a black officer who joined Dallas police 14 years ago and transferred to Fort Worth four years ago, is assigned to the downtown bicycle squad.
"I was a little nervous,” he said in an interview Tuesday at police headquarters. "I was basically listening to them. I said, 'I'm going to take a knee.'"
Yancey said he talked with his supervisor.
“He said, ‘You want to take a knee?” I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He said, ‘OK,’" Yancey said.
The supervisor quickly huddled with other officers.
“Everyone wanted to take a knee,” Yancey said.
So he got on his knee and his fellow officers quickly did too.
"A knee was a symbol of trust and unity to me,” he said. "I felt a little vulnerable. But at the time, you could tell, the crowd wanted us to be part of them. So I didn't see it as a threat to me."
In an instant, the tense standoff gave way to handshakes and hugs.
"It was very rewarding. It was a relief, a sigh of relief to me, and I believe my fellow officers as well," he said. "Because we wanted everything to be peaceful."
But it wasn't over quite yet.
Unaware of what was happening, a tactical team ran in, believing the officers' lives were in danger as the crowd approached them.
But soon enough, both sides decided to simply leave after Fort Worth police Chief Ed Kraus ordered his officers to stand down.
Yancey, a father of three, said he sympathized with the peaceful protesters and their right to free speech.
To those who distrust the police, he had a message.
"If you feel like you don't like cops or there's something you can change, come be a cop and change it,” he said.
He said he expected the tension between protesters and police would ease if both sides communicated.
"I hope it goes out to everyone in America and the world that we can do this together,” he said. “We really can."