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De Sousa's 1995 shooting requires greater scrutiny

Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham, both of Viva House, talk about two shootings in 1995 in which now-Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa was involved. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. often used Theodore Parker’s reflection in his speeches. It is pertinent today as we choose a new police commissioner. Justice and good common sense should always be of primary consideration, especially in a city experiencing unrelenting violence. The actions of acting police commissioner, Darryl De Sousa, in 1995 are as important then and now (“Appointment of new Baltimore police commissioner revives questions about shooting he was involved in 23 years ago,” Jan. 27). The “Me Too” movement and women’s Olympic gymnast scandal are analogous regarding time and justice.

The 1995 autopsy report for 26-year-old Garrett “Scooter” Jackson states that he died of 13 gunshot wounds inflicted by then-Officer De Sousa. He was being chased by Mr. De Sousa because he was “acting suspiciously.” Three of the bullets entered through his back. There is no report that Scooter fired any shots.

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Also in 1995, Officer De Sousa, along with Officers Kevin James and Willis Richardson, fired more than 30 shots in a “wild and uncontrolled manner without stopping” and killed George Thomas, the man they were pursuing. Melvin James, 18, was also killed by a stray bullet. What kind of police work is that?

Mayor Catherine Pugh, Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman Brandon Scott are of the opinion that Mr. De Sousa was “completely vetted.” And, let’s move on. Not so fast. I was interviewed by reporter Kevin Rector and believe that a more thorough inquiry is required. This is not “racially motivated” as Councilman Scott suggests. It is not an “ad hominem” attack on Mr. De Sousa. We must decide what is justice-oriented police work and what serves the common good.

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More of the same will not reduce the violence. A more militarized police force will bring about greater violence. You reap what you sow.

Brendan Walsh, Baltimore

The writer is co-founder of Viva House.

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