Apparently on the TV news tonight we will see a story I can only describe as the Dallas's First Truly Awkward Moment of 2010. Dallas Police Lieutenant Regina Smith will lead a cortege of a dozen uniformed officers and several television news crews to strew rose petals at the apartment complex in East Oak Cliff where her husband, Senior Corporal Norman Smith, was slain by gunfire one year ago today while attempting to serve a warrant. The petals will be strewn at 6:14 pm -- the time of her husband's death.
Well, on the one hand, Smith -- formerly a member of police chief David Kunkle's staff, now in a patrol division -- is a grieving widow. She and her fellow police officers ought to be able to honor the death of her husband and their comrade if they want to and as they see fit. On the other hand, Smith, perhaps in grief, has colored this evening's event with a very political theme, describing the apartment complex where her husband died as "not a safe place." That's very much in dispute.
Immediately after Smith's death the city of Dallas, spurred on by the editorial page of The Dallas Morning News, launched a code-enforcement and law-enforcement blitz against the Oakwood Place Apartments, where the shooting occurred. But the Dallas Observer published a story February 26, 2009, showing that Stolarski, the owner operator, had a stellar record as a crime-fighting landlord.
In July of last year, Smith's commanding officer in the police gang unit was reprimanded and transferred after a departmental investigation found lax procedures in the raid had contributed to the killing.
But today in describing the event she has planned for this evening, Smith's widow clearly was not cutting Stolarski any slack. She conceded that she had not attempted to reach Stolarski or consult him in any way about coming onto his property with police and news crews.
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She also told Unfair Park, "Remember how dangerous it is out there. We will have about 20 officers out there. They are bad acting out there. If you do come out there, be aware that it's not a safe place, and I don't want anyone to get hurt. We'll have plenty of officers out there. I'm just telling you what kind of environment it is out there."
Unfair Park asked if she had called Stolarski to request permission to hold the event on his property: "Not to my knowledge. No, sir," she said. "No, no, I have had no contact with them."
Unfair Park called Stolarski, who said he had just learned of the event himself. He said the characterization of his complex was unfair. "We are not unsafe. If we have bad tenants we evict them immediately. Immediately."
Stolarski said he contacted the police department this afternoon as soon as he heard of the event to assure that he will leave management personnel on site after normal business hours to see that Smith will be able to get through the locked gates. He said the news crews will also be allowed in, even though "it makes us look terrible."