The numbing senselessness of a deputy’s slaying


The following editorial appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday, Sept. 1:

So this is our world? A 47-year-old man pumping gas in suburban Houston is ambushed and assassinated, for no apparent reason beyond his Harris County sheriff’s deputy uniform?

Another day, another slaying. Today, a criminal suspect is killed; tomorrow, a police officer falls. Moral equivalency isn’t the issue, as much as the numbing drumbeat of death.

Deputy Darren Goforth was doing what any of us might have been doing Friday night. Investigators say a lone suspect approached from behind and shot into the back of his head. Goforth went down; the gunman kept shooting, 15 times before fleeing into the darkness.

Investigators soon arrested Shannon J. Miles, 30, of Houston and found a .40-caliber handgun at his home. He faces a capital murder charge and is jailed without bail. He has said little about why he might have targeted an officer. Authorities say he has a lengthy criminal record, including resisting arrest and weapons violations.

Whatever more we learn, nothing will bring back Goforth, a 10-year veteran who leaves a wife and two young children. Bullets fired do not return.

In another part of Texas, a sheriff held his head. Dee Anderson of Tarrant County (home of Fort Worth and Arlington) is the son of a newspaperman and a former sportswriter himself, yet he struggled for words. It’s one thing to read about the cowardly ambush slayings of two New York City police officers. It’s something else entirely to hear of a Texas deputy dying this way.

“If I sound lost and unsure, it’s because I am,” Anderson finally wrote. “I truly cannot make any sense of what is happening in this country, and I am grasping for any answers.”

Anderson tried to use the post at his department’s Facebook page to bring solace to his employees. He echoed many in law enforcement who believe the senseless taking of one touches them all. Anderson also knows that poor decisions, even criminal conduct, by a few misfits in his profession has led to tough questions for all officers, amid some inflammatory rhetoric.

Black lives matter? All lives matter? “Well, cops’ lives matter, too,” said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman. Miles is black; Goforth was white. Only the gunman can tell you whether that mattered Friday night.

Anderson remembers the day in 1980 that he first put on an Arlington police uniform, the total strangers “not afraid to tell me how much they appreciated me and the job I was doing. I walked straighter and taller, knowing the good citizens were behind me and supported my mission.”

Sadly, that seems so long ago.

“I am fully aware of all the arguments on both sides of how we arrived to where we are today,” Anderson writes. “Like many, I am weary of the arguments, but I do know one thing — now has to be the time to say ‘enough.’”

We can only hope he’s right. The alternative is too miserable to contemplate.

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