City Hall

After Weekend Shooting, Police Vow to Step Up the Fight Against Violent Crime in Deep Ellum

Police barricades flooded Deep Ellum Sunday after a deadly shooting left several people in the hospital.
Police barricades flooded Deep Ellum Sunday after a deadly shooting left several people in the hospital. Michael Förtsch on Unsplash
A shooting in Deep Ellum early Sunday left one person dead and five others wounded. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told news outlets this weekend the department planned to beef up security in Deep Ellum in response to the shooting and other violent crime in the area.

“I’m not having it!!" Garcia wrote about the shooting. "We are taking Deep Ellum back for our city. Zero Tolerance.”

But some are worried about what that means for the area and how successful the department’s tactics will be.

Around 12:40 a.m. Sunday, gunfire rang out at North Malcolm X Boulevard and Main Street. Police officers patrolling the area say Lathaniel Pearson, 18, was there “pointing a gun.” He dropped the gun and ran from the police before they caught up to him. All the while, shooting continued from elsewhere.

Police said other people may have been firing weapons but have not released any information. Of the six people shot, one of them, an 18-year-old named Kenneth Walker, was killed. A 19-year-old who wasn’t identified by police was in critical condition. Four others also went to the hospital and were expected to survive.

Although he’s been arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest, police still don’t know if Pearson's bullets struck the victims.

DPD put barricades up all around Deep Ellum later on Sunday. Jessica Brodsky, a local bartender, said she worries the department’s efforts will negatively affect businesses and service workers in the area without having a significant impact on crime. A police spokesperson said the department has been working with the neighborhood in the fight against crime.

“Every weekend DPD collaborates with the Deep Ellum Foundation to provide officers in the area," the spokesperson said. "They work in many capacities for visibility and patrol.”

That's not enough, Brodksy suggested.

“Barricading a street doesn't deter minors from loitering, people from drinking on the streets and parking lots, guns from being carried and violent fights breaking out,” Brodsky said. “All of this has been happening for many, many years.”

She said the entertainment district was one of the first to close due to COVID-19 and one of the last allowed to reopen.

“All of this has been happening for many many years.” – Jessica Brodsky, bartender

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“We have been under a microscope by the code compliance, [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] and fire marshal while trying to operate and hopefully recoup losses incurred by being shut down,” Brodsky said. “We worry about how to navigate everything while keeping patrons happy and safe. We need help, but just blocking streets is not enough.”

She knows Deep Ellum will survive, just not how much it will cost.

“We, as in the businesses, do not have the money, manpower or authority to prevent these crimes that happen on city streets, but we are often held responsible when they happen,” Brodsky said.

The Dallas City Council voted last year to slash the city's police overtime budget by $7 million while still increasing the overall police budget by $15 million. Some at the time wanted more cuts while others were appalled by the millions taken from DPD's overtime budget. After the city auditor released a preliminary report showing no apparent waste or abuse of police overtime funds, Mayor Eric Johnson said he planned to get the budget restored. Brodsky said she thinks this is one piece that can help solve Deep Ellum’s crime puzzle.

“Our officers need city support in order to do their job,” she said.

A 90-day update of DPD’s violent crime reduction plan showed a 3.6% decrease in violent crime compared to last year, but aggravated assaults increased by about 5.7%.

John Jay Myers, owner of The Free Man Cajun Cafe and Lounge, said what needs to be done is simple.

"They do need to shut down anything and everything that goes down outside the clubs: outside DJs, random pop-up shops, etc.," Myers said. "It's gotten so people think the police don't control anything, so they will do everything." He also said police in the area have been too lenient. "It made everyone believe you would basically have to kill someone to get arrested down there," he said.  

Another Deep Ellum business owner who wished to remain anonymous said patrons are becoming scared of the area and that "strong police intervention is long overdue."

"The financial losses we’ve all suffered from the pandemic will pale in comparison if the neighborhood becomes a place where violent crime is permitted and acknowledged as the norm," the owner said. "Business owners, employees and patrons deserve better from our city."
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn