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Black doctor to police: I defend you, I will care for you — but I still fear you

Brian Williams, a Dallas surgeon who treated officers shot in the July 7 attacks, says the violence has to stop. (Video: Reuters)
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Trauma surgeon Brian Williams was running Parkland Memorial Hospital’s emergency room the night seven officers arrived after a shooting rampage in downtown Dallas by a lone gunman who targeted police.

Williams, whose hospital routinely treats multiple gunshot victims, quickly went to work that night.

Later, he choked back tears when describing how three officers died at the hospital.

“I think about it every day, that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night,” Williams said at an emotional news conference Monday. “It weighs on my mind constantly.”

Williams is also a black man who said he was deeply affected by “the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers.” He understands the anger directed toward police and has had his own run-ins with officers in which he feared for his life.

He straddles both worlds. Last week’s experience was “a turning point in my life,” he said.

“There’s this dichotomy where I’m standing with law enforcement, but I personally feel and understand the angst that comes when you cross an officer in uniform,” he said Monday. “I’ve been there. I understand that. But for me, that does not condone disrespecting or killing police officers.”

“I abhor what has been done to these officers and I grieve with their families,” he said.

Two fatal police shootings of black men — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn. on Wednesday — sparked national outrage last week.

Protesters demonstrated in various cities. On Thursday, a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas had just ended when a gunman, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, opened fire.

Five officers were killed and nine more injured.

On Monday, Williams acknowledged “the anger and the frustration and distrust of law enforcement, but they are not the problem. The problem is the lack of open discussions about the impact of race relations in this country,” he said. “This killing it has to stop. Black men dying and being forgotten, people retaliating against the people sworn to defend us, we have to come together and end all this.”

The victims of the Dallas shooting

Williams recounted to the Associated Press how police have stopped him over the years, and that he is scared each time he could be killed. He tries to be mindful to act in a way that doesn’t appear threatening, he told AP.

“In one traffic stop, he ended up ‘spread eagle’ on the hood of the cruiser. In another, when he was stopped for speeding, he had to wait until a second officer arrived,” AP reported. “Just a few years ago, he was stopped by an officer and questioned as he stood outside his apartment complex waiting for someone to pick him up and drive him to the airport.”

He told AP, “I’m always just praying for the encounter to end.”

“I want the Dallas Police Department to see I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you,” he said Monday. “That doesn’t mean that when you approach me, I will not have a visceral reaction and start worrying about my personal safety.”

Williams has a 5-year-old daughter. When out in public together, he likes to “do simple things” to show kindness to officers, such as picking up officers’ tabs at a restaurant.

“I want my daughter to see me interacting with police officers that way so that she doesn’t grow up with the same burden I have,” he said.


The acts of heroism during a deadly night in Dallas

How Philando Castile’s killing changed the way blacks talk about surviving traffic stops

Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no.