BELTON — Temple’s NAACP chapter took their efforts to the Bell County Justice Center on Monday in the continued effort to find answers surrounding the officer-involved shooting death of 28-year-old Michael Dean last month.
“We’re still protesting and bringing awareness to this case, because we still have not gotten any information about the shooting,” Temple NAACP President Bennie Walsh said. “There has been an injustice to our community and there has been an injustice to the family.”
Walsh emphasized how the community will not be able to heal until information is shared with the public. That collective desire for information is swelling as more than 100 people stood with Dean’s family outside the Bell County Justice Center.
“This is just plain wrong ... We should not be here again talking about the same thing,” Walsh said at the third protest the group has held. “Something is not right and we’re going to stay protesting. This shouldn’t have to happen to any community and it must stop.”
Sgt. Bryan Washko of the Texas Department of Public Safety said there was no timeline on the conclusion of the Dean shooting investigation, but that “I can assure you the investigation is nearing its end. Unfortunately, these investigations are very lengthy, however, there will be information pushed out very soon.”
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza responded to email questions about the investigation of Dean’s death.
“My office has been in conversation with the Texas Rangers and have been updated as the investigation has progressed,” Garza said Monday. “As of today, I can report that while the investigation is still ongoing, my office is beginning to review material that has been submitted by the Texas Rangers. Once we have had an opportunity to review the investigation submitted by the Texas Rangers, we will take an appropriate course of action.”
Local NAACP member Garry Smith continued his message from last week, reiterating how nobody is above the law. He wants government officials to understand that the community will not waver in their pursuit for information.
“We’re not going to stop because that’s what the NAACP was formed to do,” Smith said. “This organization is for equality, it’s for justice, and we’re here to represent the people any time something is not being done the way it should be done.”
Smith and the NAACP are prepared to file a violation of civil rights complaint if the police department continues to avoid speaking with the public, he said.
“Our next step here is to file a Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Department of Justice ... We’ve gotten our go-ahead from our state representative to do this,” Smith said. Title VI deals with federal funding of organizations that discriminate.
In the meantime, Smith asks residents to continue spreading the word.
“What you need to do here is text somebody ... get on Facebook and tell everybody about this,” Smith said. “It’s not right and we’re not going anywhere until someone comes out here and tells us exactly what we need to hear.”
Nearly 6,000 people had signed a Change.org Justice for Michael Dean petition calling for more information in the case to be released by Monday night.
Although Walsh was pleased with the increased number of residents taking action, he was upset with the lack of a church presence at the gathering. He said too few pastors were in attendance.
“We need more people out here protesting with us … We need the churches out here protesting with us,” Walsh said. “They should be the first ones out here.”
Ameen Ashad — an Army veteran who served in Vietnam — echoed Walsh’s comments, calling for veterans to participate in future events. The 69-year-old accentuated how veterans should continue to fight for this country.
“We serve this country and we’ve given our lives for this country,” Ashad said. “This is wrong for this to be happening and all of the veterans in Temple … I know there are plenty of you from Temple and from Killeen. The next time we have a meeting out here; don’t let me be the only one out here. Because if we start doing something, then they’ll start doing something.”
Telegram staff writer Deborah McKeon contributed to this report.