Community prays for patience after deadly police shooting

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 25 at 6:17 PM

DALLAS — Several dozen family and friends of James Harper gathered to pray for patience on Wednesday morning near the spot where he was shot to death by a Dallas police officer.

The word "frustration" might best sum up this neighborhood on the southeast side of Dallas.

Investigators said a foot chase turned into a fight leading a patrolman to shoot and kill James Harper late Tuesday afternoon.

Dallas police later said Harper did not have a weapon.

Within minutes, an angry crowd gathered along Dixon Avenue demanding to know why an officer would kill an unarmed man.

"You have the gun, the Mace; not for sure if he had a Taser, but if you did, you could have Tased him," said James Harper, the victim's cousin who shares the same name, on Wednesday. "This thing could have been handled a lot differently."

"He shot down this young man, and this man hadn't killed nobody," Brenda McGee added. "And then the guy in Colorado shot and killed a lot of innocent people and nobody shot and killed him."

Relatives concede that Harper had a criminal past.

"No one is squeaky clean, but he was trying. He was trying," said Porcha Gillyard, victim's cousin.

Harper's family shared another picture of him recently as he posed with his eight-year-old daughter, Kennedy.

The deadly police shooting caught the attention of one state lawmaker. Rep. Eric Johnson said the sharp uptick in officer-involved shootings in Dallas is cause for concern. In all of last year there were a dozen of them; so far this year there have been 14 — and five months remain.

Dallas police Chief David Brown noted that assaults on officers have increased, too.

"What's going on? Is it something that's where we need more education in the community? Do the police need better training?" Rep. Johnson asked. "There's definitely something happening to cause so many of these shootings to occur like this."

The lawmaker plans to sit all sides down to seek answers and reach common ground on the tough issue.

Harper's mother and father want to learn more before speaking publicly about their son's death.

E-mail: jwhitely@wfaa.com

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