On Sunday, we discussed Debbie Russell, sister of Cindy Sheehan when she insulted the entire city of Austin in the wake of the murder of officer Jamie Padron at a local WalMart. Russell wrote on her Facebook Wall about the incident; “Curiosity may have killed the cat, but ego killed the cop”. On a local radio show at KLBJ, the Todd and Don Show (podcast at this link on Wednesday and about 15 minutes into the show) they called her a “scum bag” with no apologies.
So I guess Russell, a member of the local school board is feeling the heat. She just dropped off a link to an apology of sorts in the comment thread where she embarrassed herself and several of her idiot friends;
I apologize for a recent statement made on my FaceBook page about “ego,” and it’s possible role in the recent death of an APD officer. My sincere regrets go to the community, the family, fellow officers and friends of Officer Padron – also to my many colleagues who were being asked to defend me or who stand in disappointment of me. My comment was not thoughtful, and the follow up context in which I had hoped explained it further was lost in the fray. But I take responsibility for that, as the initial statement reflected the very thing I was condemning: my ego.
Words matter, and my words matter more than I realized – and social media is WAY more powerful than I realized (my concurrent comments to the press never spoke to the officer’s death; merely Ahmede Bradley’s-see below). I shirked my responsibility as a community activist in not taking this into consideration first.
I regret increasing the conflict, when normally I pride myself on encouraging conflict resolution.
Live and learn.
Please know I spoke only on behalf of myself. Not on behalf of any organization or board I sit on and NO ONE should have to answer for me BUT me. I hope some out there will now stop using my words against organizations I’m affiliated with, as that is entirely unfair.
Tragedy breeds more pain. How we react to it is a testament and/or an indictment of our humanity. I am not proud of the words I used, no matter how “right” I believe my sentiment to be. I admit my mistake and ask for forgiveness of my lack of judgment as I strive to improve myself as an activist…as a human.
My point, if it matters at this juncture, was to search for a common thread between the two adjacent deaths in an attempt to prevent further deaths and in an attempt to make sense of the senseless coincidence. In the Bradley shooting, it seems pretty clear to me and much of the community (and I’m understanding even many officers), that the foot chase was in violation of APD policy. Chief Acevedo changed the foot pursuit policy in 2008 to avoid this very thing.
I extended that thought process to the Wal-Mart incident, because as I understood it, the shooter didn’t pull out his gun until he first tried to flee, and Officer Padron jumped on him to subdue him. I posited that if he allowed him to flee the store, it may have lessened the danger. In my comments, I didn’t contextualize what we all know to be true: things happen fast and split decisions are easy to question in hindsight. Padron simply didn’t know he was dealing with an armed individual. This has to be an officer’s worst nightmare scenario.
Amy Donovan was our last officer to die in the line of duty (in 2004)–and she was pursuing a suspected drug user. This is a major reason the Chief, upon DOJ’s recommendation, changed the policy. Non-violent crimes shouldn’t be met with force that amplifies the chance for injury or death. I readily admit we don’t have enough information yet on the Wal-Mart incident to pass thorough judgment, and in that, I failed. I also failed in first relaying my condolences – which are sincere, despite former appearances.
Just as I never intended to put blame on Officer Padron, I do not blame Officer Donovan for what is a matter of instinct – a matter of expectations in policing – of “getting your man” despite all risks. This is not policy, this is not training; yet there is pressure amongst the ranks that I hope becomes a point of discussion for further changes….just as the community needs to have its own discussions about interfacing with police and reacting as a community to police abuse.
My biggest regret, beyond any pain I’ve caused others, in this is that I made the same mistake I’ve often accused Chief Acevedo of…of speaking too soon, and of –however unintentionally– laying blame on the victim in doing so. Immediately following the Sanders, Contreras and Carter shootings, the Chief did just that…and never apologized for it.
It’s been proven in expert discovery and the independent KeyPoint report (backed by both the first Internal Affairs report and the Citizens Review Panel recommendation) that there was no struggle for a gun before Sanders was shot; there wasn’t time…yet the Chief said it “appeared to be a good shooting” hours following the death. The Chief said hours after the Contreras death, before having watched the video, that Devin shot first…that didn’t happen. The Chief said hours after the Carter death “they used the car as a weapon” which was belied by the lack of an indictment against the driver. He has said about the Carter and Bradley shootings that “people shouldn’t run from the police,” which sends a message that it is their fault they were shot and killed.
I offer these parallels not as an excuse…but as a point to say that “in this matter, I’ve been a hypocrite.” I jumped to a conclusion and put it out there publicly before waiting for facts. Yes, my comments have taken on a life of their own – and I’m being quoted as saying things I’ve not said, such as: “it’s Padron’s fault he was killed.” I would never say that, any more than the Chief would outright say that about a victim of police shooting. But it shouldn’t stop either of us questioning preventative measures, even though neither of us like hearing the other say it.
My intention was to start a dialog, even knowing I didn’t have all the facts yet. My intention was not malicious – it was to question the culture we live in and the culture of policing, in an attempt to prevent more deaths.
My intention was to understand what we did know about the police shooting…why Officer Padron was the sole responder, what might have gone differently if back up had arrived concurrent to his response…if the gun would have appeared had he not tried to subdue him in the store. I know these are hard questions immediately following. I know many feel “it’s too soon,” but I think immediacy is important to prevent another similar tragedy. I won’t apologize for asking those questions, but I do wholeheartedly apologize for the words I chose in that one forum.
I understand many people will never forgive or forget. I can only ask that people focus less attention on me, and my thoughtlessness, and more on the dialog around the need to improve our pubic safety practices such that no one dies before their time.
I never got to meet Officer Padron, and have only heard good things about him and his time on the force. My heart goes out to all who were touched by this loss. I value all life equally. I recognize that I didn’t exhibit that last Saturday when I posted the statement in my exhaustion and heightened emotion.
These adjacent deaths put a strain on us all. Austin wasn’t prepared for this. Our collective selves are still in shock. We look at the pain around us, from wars abroad to our recession; from the Zimmerman case to here at home, and wonder if something is spinning out of our control. I think once we step back, we’ll see this is not the case – that this horrific coincidence was just that – a coincidence.
We can’t control everything around us…we can’t account for the insanity of a few (except for where we fail in social services), so when I speak loudly about police abuse on others, some see it as a lack of empathy for the police perspective. I don’t lack that empathy, but there are plenty of voices to speak to that. In my attempt to control the one thing we should have some control over— public safety officials …as we pay their salaries; as they take an oath to serve and protect…I hastily jumped to find an answer to why a second death came upon our community in one night.
I am open to respond to individual questions on this matter and appreciate any input on how to move forward.
Again, my apologies to those I’ve brought pain to…including to Chief Acevedo, who, apart from the families and friends of the deceased, is experiencing probably the most distress from the respective fall out of the combined traumatic events.
In community, Debbie Russell
Yeah, I think she was in danger of losing her seat on the school board and probably the only job she’s ever had that didn’t involve hot water and dish detergent. I don’t accept her apology – if she hadn’t meant it, she wouldn’t have said it and then defended herself and sent her friends in to do verbal battle with us. Debbie, kindly GFY.