When 21-year-old John Husband was shot in the back around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday after a traffic stop turned ugly, everyone assumed the worst. Dallas police officer Leland Limbaugh pulled Husband over for not hitting his turn signal as he pulled into the Spring Ridge Apartments at 3600 Folklore Trail. The marijuana smoked that billowed from the car wasn't a sufficient reason to take Husband's life. Even Husband's attempt to run away, the ensuing stories implied, shouldn't have ended in bloodshed.
On Wednesday afternoon, Police Chief David Brown scolded reporters involved in the coverage of the shooting.
"The media coverage has been very irresponsible," he said, before harping that the investigation was still ongoing. "We have to be correct," he shot back at a defensive journalist who demanded why there wasn't more information made public. "We can't get in front of the story so you can get ratings or beat your competition."
Brown restated the events according to Officer Limbaugh, who didn't have a dashboard camera on his car. (Most police cruisers do; his didn't). When Limbaugh pulled over Husband, two other men, Xavier Bryant and Derek Epps, were also in the car. Limbaugh asked if there were any guns in the car, and Husband said no. When the officer went to pat down Husband, he immediately felt a pistol tucked into Husband's waistband.
Limbaugh grabbed Husband's hands, and the two started to grapple as the suspect struggled to escape. According to Limbaugh, Husband got one hand loose and reached for his own gun. That's when Limbaugh shot Husband in the back, through the shoulder. Husband staggered away a few steps, then collapsed.
The police chief said there were several witnesses who saw some or all of the incident. Bryant and Epps watched from inside the car. One man and his eight-year-old nephew were throwing a football about 30 yards away in the parking lot, and at one point, the man's girlfriend came out as well. The key, according to Brown, was matching sworn witness accounts with physical evidence, audio and video from responding police officers and ballistics.
"We're trying to get people comfortable with coming forward," Brown said, before later adding emphatically, "There is no evidence that we have to contradict the officer's account. Not a shred of evidence at this point."
The most delicate part in all this, of course, is where race and community play into the incident. Brown made a point to say that Limbaugh is Mexican, not white, and also called out the media for fabricating community outrage at the shooting.
"You guys recorded two people in the community, Reverend Wright and Peter Johnson. Two people." Brown was born and raised in Dallas, in the community where the shooting happened. He said there was no outrage.
"In every police shooting, I'd say in the last decade, Reverend Wright has been front and center, angry and upset. And Peter Johnson's perspective, no disrespect to him, is from the 1960s. He's a civil rights activist," Brown said. He spoke a little more on the two, before changing the subject. "I'm trying to bite my tongue."
Brown said it could take over six months for police to transcribe audio, collect evidence and corroborate witness reports, and he asked for patience. Husband's family was still grieving and hungry for answers, he said, and was likely reading everything that came out on his death.
"The best thing we can do for his family is to be thorough," Brown said.
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