Chief: Union head’s comments after shooting ‘over the top’
HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s police chief on Thursday distanced his agency from comments made by the head of the police officers’ union that seemed to imply this week’s shooting that injured five officers during a drug raid was due in part to anti-police rhetoric.
The officers were serving a search warrant at a drug house Monday when a gun battle ensued and two suspects were killed. Three of the officers remain hospitalized Thursday.
At a news conference held shortly after Monday’s shooting, Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, criticized people whom he said were “spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy.”
“We’re going to be keeping track of all of you all and we’re going to make sure we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers,” Gamaldi said.
In the days since the shooting, Gamaldi appeared on Fox News and continued to criticize community activists who have “severely just made our officers the enemy. They’ve put targets on our backs.”
Gamaldi said the activists were trying to reduce the legitimacy of police and drive a wedge between police and the community.
At a Thursday news conference, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo called Gamaldi’s comments “over the top” and worried they could hurt the good relationship police in the nation’s fourth largest city have with community activists. Acevedo said rhetoric had nothing to do with Monday’s shooting.
“I’m just asking everyone here, let’s tone it down,” Acevedo said.
Ashton Woods, an activist with the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter who attended Acevedo’s news conference, said he viewed Gamaldi’s comments as an attempt to “bash people who speak out against police brutality and systemic racism.”
“This incites violence toward people who want to do nothing but seek peace for the people of Houston,” Woods said. “We love our city, too, just like they do. We need to be able to work together without making this rhetoric.”
Gamaldi said Thursday he never singled out Black Lives Matter in his comments and there was nothing over the top about vocalizing what he believes “every single police officer on this department was feeling.”
“I don’t know how anyone could think accountability is a bad thing,” he said. “I’m not talking about activists who want genuine interactions with our police officers and who are trying to better our community. I’m talking about activists who call for the death of police officers.”
Woods said he believes Acevedo did not sufficiently denounce Gamaldi’s comments.
Acevedo said he plans to soon meet with local community activists to discuss this incident.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70