Bryan town hall sparks open conversations between police, community

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:46 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Residents and community leaders came out Thursday night to discuss any questions or concerns with police about an incident that happened on July 4.

The town hall took place at the Brazos Valley African American Museum and was hosted by Sedrick Gilbert.

Gilbert says that he saw on social media and in the news what happened and knew something had to be done.

“When I saw that and then saw what resulted from it with a lot of speculation, a lot of anger, and resentment, I felt the need to do something about it,” said Gilbert.

On July 4, police say they responded to more than 20 calls from E. MLK Jr. Street from residents saying people were shooting off fireworks at residents, vehicles, and homes. Police said Thursday evening some of those calls were also for shots fired and criminal mischief.

Police officials say earlier that night, they initially set up a unit near the Cypress Bend, Pepper Tree neighborhood after an incident the year before, and social media posts saying they planned to shoot fireworks off again.

Around the same time the calls from E. MLK Jr. Street came in, police say they were made aware of the same social media posts saying they were moving the fireworks to that area. That is why, police officials say, there was more of a response.

While there, police say fireworks were being shot at them, their vehicles, residents, and homes. Police released edited body cam footage showing what happened.

Thursday, police said they tried to deescalate the situation and when that did not work, they backed off. Ten people were arrested that night for warrants, and assaulting a public officer.

After seeing the body camera footage and social media posts, some residents in the neighborhood felt that the response from police was “uncalled for.”

Gilbert says his goal Thursday was to try and allow open conversation so residents and police can better understand each other.

Brazos County NAACP President Ebony Knight says she came out to the town hall to listen.

“In situations like the one we are here for tonight, we can never really get a full picture until we hear both sides,” said Knight.

Following a statement from police, residents asked questions about how to better deescalate situations like this one. Another topic was how residents can file complaints both regarding police or other issues in the community, so they can help police investigate situations better.

Gilbert says he hopes town halls like this can continue to happen, not just when incidents occur, so relationships can continue to grow stronger.

“We’ve all got to do our part. It’s about accountability, empathy, grace and mercy towards one another,” said Gilbert.

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