Racial Politics & Public Safety DO NOT Conflict

by Elliott Stonecipher

Please indulge me for a moment as I urge you to read the Times article in this link, and view the embedded video, HERE.  Be warned that this is a record of a few-minute encounter in which one of our Shreveport Police officers killed a local resident.

There may be nothing more difficult to discuss as a community than a racially-sensitive encounter in which law enforcement – the Shreveport Police Department in this case – takes the life of a fellow human being.  That the officer is white and the man killed is black often supercharges the period following.  Thus far at least, everything that can be done to shine light on the event – and on the way officials handle the absolutely necessary follow-up – is taking place.

The camera footage of this nightmare, taken from inside the police car, doesn’t show what triggered the ultimate danger to the policeman which, in turn, led to the killing of the man he detained, Michael Gilyard.  Regardless, the complete audio record, along with what video we do have is compelling, and will be, to many, heart-wrenching.  (Earlier Times coverage and details of these events may be read here.)

Cpl. Bryan Lauzon’s actions during this very brief and tragic encounter are now in the public domain for all to hear, and see, as possible.  To “only” hear the officer as he calmly and respectfully deals with Michael Gilyard is powerful, but stunningly so is to hear the officer when things go wrong.  The listener may well end-up, as did I, in a heart-pounding collision of emotion, and questions, and, finally, deep sadness.  Many arm-chair quarterbacks will question what the officer did and did not do, but none of us were there with him, and those factors are the responsibility of others who have the training to evaluate them.

Were I a family member of Mr. Gilyard, I would do precisely as his family members are doing:  I would want to hear/see the video, force as necessary 100% transparent review by any and all appropriate authority, and ask for the help of others I trust in doing so.  The fact that there is a few-minute gap in the video record of the event due to the locations of Mr. Gilyard and Cpl. Lauzon is more than enough to justify all of that.

No one who knows Shreveport’s relatively recent history would believe that District Attorney Charles Scott would deny Mr. Gilyard’s family the complete protection of the law.  Neither would he, I believe, take any action against the officer which was not backed up by the facts and full legal process.  He is providing precisely what everyone involved wants from the authority he holds.  Thus, we should all hope that anyone attempting to politicize this event will think twice, or three or four times, before they proceed.

Charles Scott has welcomed any and all follow-up reviews, by any and all other authorities.  Again, such is precisely what is due and correct.  If facts as presently reported turn out to be different than now, the D. A. will be on the hotseat, and the public will expect to know every detail before he’s off that seat.

Personally, I think one can only hope and pray that any friend or family member’s encounter with front-line public safety officers would “draw” Cpl. Lauzon.  Too many of us know how his opposites in public safety would have handled Mr. Gilyard, but none of that matters here:  only the facts do, and to this point, those facts seem clear.

Now, there are two victims and their families and friends who are living in pure hell on earth.  As many of us pray for each of them, we also thank involved public officials for doing the job we pay them to do.

A lot goes wrong these days at the hands of some of our public officials, but as for the events of this awful 7 minutes in Queensborough on December 15, 2011, none of that is thus far in evidence.

Elliott Stonecipher

For any reader who may not know, this and all other such analysis and commentary I forward to you has been done strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.

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