The saying, “hindsight is 20/20” may be the case involving both myself and Paris Police Chief Richard Salter after one of the community’s most active and persuasive social justice advocates accosted the department and the chief personally during Citizen’s Forum at a Paris City Council meeting last week.
As she has done in the past during public appearances, Taisley Scroggins spoke passionately about what she perceives as a lack of communication and transparency by the police chief and his department in the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting that left long-time Lamar County resident Colton Carico paralyzed.
The police chief came to me immediately after the council meeting to tell me he had released all the information he could about the incident because, as protocol requires, he immediately turned the investigation over to the Texas Rangers.
“My prayers go out to the victim and his family and friends, but I can make no further statement about the investigation conducted by the Texas Rangers,” Salter said. “I personally wrote the press release to the media immediately after the shooting.”
The chief added the officer involved has been deemed fit for duty and has returned to normal duty after being immediately put on administrative leave after the incident. He also said it is his understanding the Texas Rangers will turn information over to the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office to review the case before the Lamar County Grand Jury.
Salter’s press release, published the day after the shooting, clearly stated that police responded to a vehicle accident and later found the owner/driver of the vehicle at his Reno residence, at which time police said Carico brandished a firearm, which resulted in the officer-involved shooting.
In hindsight, I should have asked the chief for any additional comment he might make that did not directly relate to any of the facts involving the shooting incident, but I did not. Perhaps, the chief also had some thoughts “in hindsight” because he has since shared the following with me in email correspondence.
“I personally met with Mr. Carico’s mother, father, aunt and grandfather — who is a well-respected retired Texas state trooper. I had also spoken with the grandfather by phone prior to releasing a statement to the press. My family has also contributed generously to Mr. Carico’s GoFundMe account.”
Those actions say much about the chief’s state of mind immediately following the shooting incident, and his compassion for both Mr. Carico and his family.
As is the case with any officer-involved shooting, Salter said the Texas Rangers were called on scene and assumed full command and control of the investigation so that their investigation could be conducted independently of the police department.
“Once completed, the results of the investigation will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for presentation to a grand jury composed of 12 Lamar County citizens,” Salter noted. “Those citizens will be presented with all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident, and they alone will determine if there was wrong-doing on the part of the officer(s).”
Going forward, hopefully, both the police chief and this newspaper will make a more concerted effort to be more forthcoming, and in a timely manner, with related information about cases that would help with communication and transparency without interfering with police investigations.
In this day and age when everything law enforcement does is highly scrutinized, it becomes more and more important for as much information to be shared with the public as possible. I am encouraged to know we have a police chief who has come forward with this background information, which should go a long way toward his efforts toward communication and transparency.