TEMPLE, Texas — For a year now, the family of Michael Dean, the man killed by a Temple police officer, has called for transparency in the handling of the case and the video of the shooting to be released by the Temple Police Department.
National Civil Rights attorney Lee Merritt released the following statement Wednesday on the one year anniversary of Dean's death.
"Michael Dean should be celebrating his daughter's 7th birthday today. Instead, he was shot at point-blank range in the head a year ago on the side of the road in Temple, Texas. He was unarmed and nonviolent. The legal apparatus within the city and county has failed to display any signs of transparency and continues to withhold body and dash-camera footage of Michael's death. While Michael's family continues to grieve, Carmen DeCruz was given a reduced bail amount and can spend his holidays home with his family, a luxury that can never be enjoyed by Michael Dean's family ever again. On the anniversary of his death, this family renews their calls for transparency and swiftness in prosecuting Michael's killer."
Merritt said in an interview with 6 News they have met a second time with White House staff. Sending a letter about some of the issues and concerns they have with the Dean case. Merritt said they have not heard from them since the election. He said they also spoke with President-Elect Biden and staff about the case.
"About instructing the DOJ to investigate not only the incident that happened to Michael Dean, but the City of Temple, Bell County and the culture that exists in North Texas for policing," Merritt said.
Temple Mayor Tim Davis said he supports Merritt's efforts to assure these things do not continue to happen when 6 News asked about the statement regarding the President-Elect.
"If we have a systemic problem and I don't believe we do here in Temple, but if there is a systemic problem with policing in general there's never a better time then now for those issues to be addressed," Davis said.
Mayor Davis said, in his opinion, something they struggled with in this case was not having a way to communicate with the community other than holding a press conference.
He said on Thursday the Citizen Police Advisory Commission is up for approval in front of the City Council. 9 people would be on the board. People can apply, applicants will be interviewed by City Council and then be appointed. Davis said it will allow for better communication from the citizens up to the city and into the police department and vice versa.
We reached out to the Temple Police Department Chief Shawn Reynolds for an interview, regarding changes in the department following Dean's death.
TPD spokesman Cody Weems said in an email chain, "Chief Reynolds will not be available to discuss these topics today as he is still in the process of completing comprehensive reviews of several aspects of the department, including policies, complaint procedures and the department's mission statement. He would be happy to set something up once these reviews are complete within the next month or so."
Also, Weems said, "Chief Reynolds has met with many community members and leaders during his time here to improve police-community relations. This includes several meetings with local NAACP and LULAC chapters. Chief Reynolds is committed to ensuring that all residents are treated with fairness and dignity.
Chief Reynolds remains steadfast to his comments and vision as stated in his June 4, 2020 letter to the community:
'As Chief of Police, I am committed to fostering relationships between the Temple Police Department and the community through healthy and productive conversations concerning police and community issues. We are committed to treating each of our citizens equally as we drive hate, discrimination and divisiveness out of our city.'"
On Dec. 2, Temple police officers tried to pull over a car on Little River Road and that traffic stop ended in an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of 28-year-old Michael Dean.
On Dec. 10, Temple police identified the officer who pulled the trigger as Carmen Decruz, who was put on administrative leave.
According to the affidavit, Decruz went up to the passenger side of Dean's car. He ordered Dean to give him the keys while his finger was on the trigger of his gun. The affidavit states Decruz pulled the keys with his left hand and his right hand also pulled back, shooting his gun and hitting Dean in the head.
On Dec. 17, 6 News learned Dean's car was released by the Texas Rangers to TPD on Dec. 5.
Dean's family requested for the car to be kept in its condition for an independent investigation but one seat was cleaned with bleach. According to a spokesman with the department, that's "pretty typical" because it could have been upsetting to the family.
In February, Decruz was officially charged with manslaughter in connection to Dean's death. He resigned 9 days later.
In March, Decruz was indicted on those charges. Later that month, his bond was lowered from $500,000 to $80,000 and he was released from jail. A pretrial hearing for DeCruz is currently set for January 15th, according to District Attorney Henry Garza.
The Temple NAACP held several protests in response to the department's handling of the case, calling for transparency and the video of the shooting to be released.