In the wake of San Antonio Police Chief William McManus’ statement on Monday that he will not fire Officer John Lee, who fatally shot Antronie Scott on Feb. 4., community activists and local leaders have responded with respective disapproval and support of the decision.
“Chief McManus lied to the families of Antronie Scott, city leaders, and community organizers by reversing his decision to file charges against Lee,” stated Mike Lowe, organizer of the activist group SATX4, in a news release on Tuesday.
SATX4 called on Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Manager Sheryl Sculley to “hold McManus accountable” by firing both McManus and Lee.
Mayor Taylor, who issued her own news release Tuesday afternoon, stated that she agreed with the decision to let Officer Lee keep his job and undergo further training.
SAPD turned over its internal investigation of the shooting to Bexar County District Attorney’s office in February while Officer Lee is on administrative duty. McManus served Lee a notice that he faces termination, separate from criminal charges, for the shooting two weeks ago. After a brief review, McManus met with Officer Lee on Monday, March 14.
McManus recommended “additional training” instead of “disciplinary measures” against Officer Lee, a white 11-year veteran, who claimed that he mistook Scott’s cell phone for a gun, prompting him to shoot Scott, an unarmed 36-year-old African American man, at a close range.
“While the initial impression was that poor tactical execution by Officer Lee alone led to the loss of Mr. Scott’s life, the investigation revealed that responsibility for the outcome was shared and therefore firing Officer Lee was not appropriate,” Taylor stated. “While I still believe this tragic incident should never have occurred, I understand the Chief’s path on discipline here. I remain committed to carrying out the police reforms in training that we have begun. I am also asking the City Manager and Police Chief to examine how we expand our community policing efforts. Regular interactions between neighborhood residents and our officers can go a long way toward preventing these types of incidents.”
McManus’ decision is a failure “to uphold (his) oath (to) respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality, and justice,” Lowe stated.
SAPD initially put Lee under “indefinite suspension” earlier this month for “unnecessarily placing himself in a tactical situation wherein he felt compelled to use deadly force,” McManus told the Rivard Report in a previous interview.
Taylor and McManus have convened both public and private meetings to discuss how to improve policing methods, the relationship between the police and community members, and to gather public opinion and concerns. Councilman Alan Warrick II (D2), who represents the city’s Eastside, has also been a part of those efforts. Though Scott’s shooting did not occur in District 2, it still resonates with a large group of his constituency, he said. He received several phone calls from District 2 residents on Tuesday who see McManus’ decision as “discarding African-American lives.”
“(They) definitely had a tone of concern and slight outrage,” he said in a phone interview. “They feel as though if it were a white person or if the tables were turned and a police officer was shot that it would be a totally different scenario.”
For Warrick, these fatal police shootings of unarmed, African-American men, along with the lack of educational and economic opportunities within the African-American community, are products of a deeply-rooted institutional racism in our society. He’s supportive of the new training that SAPD has agreed to supply to its officers, he said, but still believes that more should be done to bring Scott’s case to justice.
“There are many parties involved in this scenario, and all of their lives are forever changed, so we must be cognitive of that,” he said. “But there’s someone who is still alive today versus someone who is not, and there has to be some set of repercussions, and I just pray that they are just.”
U.S. Rep Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) responded to a tweet from Lowe (@Mr_ItIsOurDuty) on Tuesday that asked for his stance on the matter, by simply stating, “I disagree with his decision.”
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) March 15, 2016
Scott’s case is just one deadly police shooting out of dozens that have left the local and national African-American community in a state of distrust and fear of law enforcement, wanting answers and seeking justice for those killed.
Elena Scott, Antronie’s wife, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging her husband’s civil rights were violated.
More information will be added to this story as more community reactions are gathered. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Top image: (File photo) San Antonio Police Chief William McManus sits as protestors including activist Mike Lowe (back left) assemble behind him during a Town Hall at New Light Baptist Church on the Eastside in March 2016. Photo by Scott Ball.