By John Kanelis
Northeast Texas now has been swept up in the maelstrom of police violence and the death of an African-American at the hands of a white cop who, it will be argued, deployed his weapon prematurely.
At issue is the death of Jonathan Price, 31, in Wolfe City as he was allegedly breaking up a domestic disturbance in the middle of a convenience store. Wolfe City Police Officer Shaun Lucas has been charged with murder and was taken into custody and placed in the Hunt County Detention Center.
From my perch over yonder in Collin County, this case looks frighteningly similar to previous cases that have drawn a basketful of attention to other communities. We have Minneapolis and Kenosha right now at the top of our national awareness. Now this … in little ol’ Wolfe City.
What do we know about Jonathan Price? He reportedly was a pillar of his community. He worked for the city of Wolfe City and was active in a local fitness center. Price was known to volunteer for various charitable organizations. He reportedly gave willingly and freely of his time.
From what I have heard in the immediate aftermath of his death, the notion of Jonathan Price seeking to break up a domestic fight seems totally in character for the young man.
The Texas Rangers have swooped in to take the lead in this investigation.
There's a twist to that element of the story, however. Lee Merritt, a Dallas civil rights lawyer representing Price's family, wants the Hunt County district attorney, Noble Walker, to take a more active role in the investigation. He has suggested that the DA's office has been too hands-off in its approach to this matter, surrendering too much of the leg work to the Rangers.
Merritt does make the good point that the DA is the "elected prosecutor" for Hunt County and that voters elected him to do his due diligence in pursuing the truth. Merritt also said that this shouldn't be a Texas Ranger-led investigation, but that Hunt County must step up and do its job, too.
The police shouldn't be investigating the police, Merritt said in urging that the DA's office takes the lead in this probe.
Do I want something bad to happen to the officer who’s been accused of the crime? Of course not. We need a thorough fact-gathering to occur before making any harsh decisions.
I just am troubled beyond measure that such a case has been brought so close to home, bringing the nation’s attention onto one of our region’s communities. Even with a pandemic still sickening too many Americans and a key presidential election just around the corner, you can bet there will be plenty of discussion in far-away places about what in the world happened at that convenience store and the death of a young man seeking allegedly to do some good.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.