Local services planned in response to shootings

Thursday’s mass killings in Dallas, Texas, will result in a special observance in Columbus during the middle of next week.

The Columbus Police Department is spearheading the effort, with details to be worked out during a meeting on Monday, department spokesman Lt. Matt Harris said.

Five police officers were killed, seven more were wounded, and two civilians were injured during a downtown Dallas demonstration to protest the recent killings of black men by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

But local law enforcement and human rights advocates insist the observance must be more than just officers paying tribute to fallen comrades in Texas.

Instead, the event should be a demonstration of community unity where both victims of police shootings and the dead officers are mourned together — by law enforcement and the public, Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said.

“Right or wrong, there are a lot of people upset with law enforcement — and we can’t ignore that fact,” Myers said.

Not only does Harris agree, but Columbus Human Rights Commission chairman Ian Kohen said bringing different groups together in the wake of such a tragedy is important at this time.

“I’m very supportive,” Kohen said. “Such a show of unity between all of us would be wonderful.”

While the local African Americans Pastors Alliance is planning a community-wide prayer vigil, separate from any other gathering linked to the national incidents, alliance member the Rev. David Bosley also said it’s time for unity.

“This is not just a black-white issue,” said Bosley, who also serves as a chaplain for the sheriff’s department. “This is a community issue.”

The observance also would serve to confirm the fact that hostilities between police and minorities will not be tolerated in Columbus, Kohen said.

“We have a unique situation in Bartholomew County,” Kohen said. “The police officers here are amazing.”

Although Dallas is more than 900 miles from Columbus, it’s important for local officers to mourn their own, said city police officer Alan Trisler, Fraternal Order of Police Local 89 president.

“Just like race and color doesn’t matter to our law enforcement officers in Bartholomew County, our feelings for our officers don’t recognize any boundaries, either,” Trisler said.

It may take a day or two for some members of the community to decide to become a part of the community observance, the sheriff said.

“Many are hurting and angry right now, but there’s a time to heal and a time to reflect,” Myers said. “But we all need to get together to reflect on what happened — and figure out where we go from here.”

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.