BELTON — Temple NAACP President Bennie Walsh continued to question the lack of information in the officer-involved shooting death of 28-year-old Michael Dean at a gathering outside the Belton Annex on Monday.
“We have been trying to contact people to try and get some information on the incident, and we still have not been able to get anything from the Texas Rangers,” Walsh said. “What we’ve been told is that they’re still under investigation.”
Walsh, however, emphasized the few facts the community has learned since Dean’s death on Dec. 2.
“We know that the young man did not have a weapon. We know that the young man’s car has been cleaned out. We know that at the accident location it has been cleaned up.”
These realities have led Walsh to question what the Texas Rangers could possibly be investigating, citing two sources of footage in their possession — Temple Police Officer Carmen DeCruz’s body camera and dash-cam videos.
“Those are the only two pieces of evidence that we know of that they are still investigating,” Walsh said. “It doesn’t take a whole month to look at two videos. This has to be answered. We have to know what happened to Michael Dean. The family is still hurting.”
Belton resident Josh Clemens — a Bell County United for Reform member — called for more transparency to be shown in this case. Although Clemens didn’t know Dean personally, he said he knew educators and friends who did.
“He did not deserve this, and the family does not deserve the lack of transparency and care that we’ve shown them,” Clemens said. “It’s not hard to put yourself in the shoes of the Dean family and just show empathy. We’re just asking for the Texas Rangers to have a swift investigation and release their report so the family and community can begin to heal.
Sheila Riggan — a Temple resident and Temple ISD mentor — said she spent the first two weeks after Dean’s death asking her son’s friends to trust the process. Despite teaching that philosophy for 3½ years, Riggan said she can no longer ask them to trust the process.
“I spent 11 days trying to talk to somebody that was a Ranger … Hoping that because I sounded white they would talk to me,” said Riggan, who is white. “But I finally received a call back today and was told, ‘we have nothing to say to you.’ As a parent of a child, there’s no way I would wait this long for an answer. What is happening in our community is disgusting.”
Walsh noted how Temple’s NAACP branch has sent the FBI a written request, asking for their involvement in the case. He hopes the FBI can resolve residents’ unanswered questions by encouraging the Texas Rangers to be more explicit with their investigation.
“With misinformation, it leads us to make our own conclusions of what’s going on and that’s what’s happening here,” local NAACP member Garry Smith said. “We have a situation here where we are not being informed on exactly what’s going on … something is going on that they don’t want us to know about. They’re charged by an oath to protect and serve this community, and that’s what we’re looking for them to do right now.”
Doree Collins, the Un-Included Club’s executive director, alluded to how children within the community are not shocked by the events that have unfolded. She emphasized how these children are paying attention and are on high alert.
“I want to let those who are charged to protect our community know that the young people are paying attention,” Collins said. “They are on alert, and some of them are not surprised that this happened and that saddens me.”
She wants the community to understand that this is the perfect opportunity to create a better relationship between residents and the police. Walsh echoed Collins’ thought, citing dialogue from an NAACP member at a recent meeting.
“One of our members said we have to train our black kids to be afraid of the police officers … That just doesn’t make sense to me,” Walsh said. “We have to train our police officers on how to deal with the public.”
The meeting closed with a group prayer.