Dallas’ obligation to remove the label of “suspected cop killer” it wrongly placed on Mark Hughes is long overdue.
Mark Hughes is a husband, father of five, a small business owner, and one of over a million Texans licensed to carry firearms openly. And yet it was unusual that he, along with some other African Americans, openly carried a firearm at a Black Lives Matter protest march in Dallas on July 7th; unusual only because they were African Americans.
Examples of the racial issues undermining the perceived equality of the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms continue to grow. Last year, “Oath Keepers,” an all-white group of armed militiamen, protested without interference from the police in Ferguson, Missouri, prompting Ferguson Committeewoman Patricia Bynes to ask: “If there were black and brown people in this country who showed up in the streets openly carrying assault rifles in paramilitary garb would they still be received the same way?” The question was prophetic; a group of young African American men at the same protest were found to be unarmed after being arrested on suspicion of carrying guns.
As that July march that Hughes participated in was ending, five police officers were murdered and nine wounded by one or more snipers. Even though the City of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department have long determined that Mark Hughes had nothing whatsoever to do with the crime, they have failed to remove and correct Twitter feeds that wrongly depict Hughes as a murder suspect who must be brought to justice.
And so an innocent man and his family’s lives are endangered. And his business, and reputation, ruined.
Prior to the sniper ambush, the Dallas Police Department supported Americans exercising their First and Second Amendment rights – freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, respectively – and so when Mark Hughes participated in the peaceful protest openly carrying an AR15 rifle slung over his shoulder, not a single Dallas police officer attempted to stop him. To the contrary, Dallas Police provided security for a demonstration that was actually critical of police.
As soon as the shooting began, Mark was filmed surrendering his AR15 to a Dallas police officer upon the advice of his elder brother @CoryLHughes . This occurred well before the Twitter feeds labeling Mark as a murder suspect were sent out. The Dallas Police Officer to whom Mark gave his rifle treated Mark respectfully, giving him a receipt for the rifle. When Mark became aware of the Tweet wrongly identifying him, Hughes identified himself to police within 30 minutes of the tweet. He was then publicly handcuffed and brought to the police station and imprisoned awaiting interrogation. When he proffered the receipt for his rifle, police falsely indicated they had photos and witnesses who saw Mark firing his rifle at police.
In fact Mark’s rifle had not even been loaded or ever pointed at any person.
After hours of false accusations, Police finally released Hughes, determining that he had nothing to do with the shootings.
One could easily imagine a Dallas Police Officer having mistakenly killed Mark during the firefight: he had a rifle and wore a camouflaged shirt, and as darkness fell upon them the police had increasing difficultly differentiating the “good guys with guns” from the murderous sniper. Although Mark was blessedly not killed that day, his life continues to suffer a terrible wound from the event.
The story of the courage and heroism of Dallas police officers running towards the sound of gunfire to protect protesters, coupled with the example of Mark Hughes turning over his firearm in order to help police discern the good from the bad should have been an example of the community of police and African Americans in Texas coming together at a time of crisis.
Instead, Twitter feeds remain of the videotaped press conference held by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Chief of Police David Brown, showing a photo of Mark with his AR15 slung over his shoulder as Chief Brown states: “If anyone knows or recognizes this picture, please, immediately call 911. Do not approach this suspect. We’ll bring him to justice.” This videotaped press conference has so far accrued over 309,000 views.
When I served as Secretary General of INTERPOL and head of several U.S. law enforcement agencies, I led brave and dedicated law enforcement officers in the U.S. and around the world.
I know what it is like to mourn the loss of law enforcement officers under my command, as a result of murders and a terrorist attack. I have defended the police and the law enforcement community for most of my professional life.
From having personally visited 190 countries to meet with police officials, I know that a healthy, fair, and just police department should never allow false accusations to remain visible and uncorrected on its media channels.
I ask @DallasPD and @CityofDallas to remove the material that is effectively an online “Wanted” poster that continues to falsely brand Mark Hughes as a suspected cop-killer. I also ask that the Dallas PD to do the right thing and use their social media to clear Mark Hughes’ name.