A city council meeting in Farmers Branch, Texas, devolved into chaos as protesters — outraged over the off-duty police shooting death of 16-year-old Jose Cruz — demanded the mayor apologize for the actions of the police department.
Instead of addressing the angry crowd, Mayor Bob Phelps turned to police from the very department at the heart of the issue for a swift escort from the scene.
Though the protest began with one demonstrator holding a sign calling for justice for Cruz outside Farmers Branch City Hall — but 30 minutes after the demonstration’s scheduled start time, over 200 people were on the scene. In fact, the sheer number of people chanting “Jose Cruz!” forced city council to adjourn.
In March, Cruz and a friend were caught stealing from cars in a parking lot by off-duty Officer Ken Johnson. After confronting the teens, Johnson chased after them in a vehicle, shooting at their car and fatally wounding Cruz. Johnson has since been charged with murder and aggravated assault over the incident, but the protesters believe the mayor and city officials owe the family an apology.
All 200 protesters filed into the city council meeting, led by spokesman Carlos Quintanilla on Tuesday night — after the period for open public comment had ended. Phelps motioned for the meeting to be adjourned, at which time Quintanilla requested a meeting with the mayor or city manager in order to procure that apology for Cruz’ family.
“I understand you have an agenda,” Quintanilla said, according to local ABC affiliate, WFAA. “We want to meet with you, or we want to meet with somebody from the city of Farmers Branch to discuss the murder of Jose Cruz.
“We will not leave today until we have a response from you or the city manager. And if not, we’ll go to your home, mayor.”
Apparently outraged, Phelps replied, “You’re going to do what?”
After Quintanilla repeated the request, Phelps retorted, “You better not!”
At that point, council adjourned and was escorted from the room by Farmers Branch police officers. The irate crowd then spilled into the parking lot and attempted to confront Phelps as he tried to escape in his vehicle — but protesters, in an apparent sit-in, prevented the mayor from getting in his car. Police then rushed him from the scene in a department SUV as the demonstrators gave chase.
“We want the city of Farmers Branch to apologize to our community for the murder of Jose Cruz,” Quintanilla announced during the protest.
As Phelps was driven away, WFAA contacted him by phone for a statement on the protest and the need for a police escort.
“It kind of scares you,” Phelps said. “But I have a good police department taking care of me.”
Protesters and the family of Jose Cruz might beg to differ with the mayor, who also said he doesn’t plan to apologize — or even meet with the family. According to WFAA, he asked, “For what reason?”
“This is an investigation and, you know, the courts and the lawyers are handling it, the police department’s handling it … I don’t have anything to do with it.”
When asked by the station if disrupting the council meeting and chasing the mayor off the premises could be considered “appropriate,” Quintanilla stated,
“We think that whatever is necessary to get the attention of the mayor and the City of Farmers Branch we have to do it — outside of violence.”
It appears the protesters certainly have the city’s and the mayor’s attention — though the chances the family will receive even a meeting with either appears highly unlikely.