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(STAR-TELEGRAM) — Garrett Hull, Botham Jean and Amber Guyger — and the tragic circumstances that surround them all — suddenly became part of a senatorial debate Friday night.
The topic of police shootings and fallen officers — such as Fort Worth’s Garrett Hull, who was laid to rest Friday — came up during the hour-long debate between Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Democrat U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke at SMU.
Cruz was asked why he cautioned O’Rourke and others not to jump to conclusions about the case of Guyger, a Dallas police officer who shot and killed Jean — an unarmed black man — in his own apartment, which she said she mistakenly thought was her own home.
“What happened to Mr. Jean was horrific,” Cruz said “Nobody should be in their own home and be shot and killed. It was tragic.”
Cruz noted that Guyger said she thought she was in her own home and believed Jean was an intruder.
“Right now, today, I don’t know what happened that evening. Congressman O’Rourke doesn’t know what happened that evening, but he immediately called for firing the officer,” Cruz said. “I think that’s a mistake.
“We have a criminal justice system … that will determine what happened that night,” he said. “If she violated the law … she will face the consequences … But without knowing the facts, Congressman O’Rourke is ready to convict her, fire her. It’s a troubling pattern.”
Cruz went on to claim that O’Rourke suggested that police officers embody “modern-day Jim Crow” laws.
“Just today, Fort Worth is burying Officer Hull … who was shot in the head,” Cruz said.
Hull died Sept. 14 after being shot while pursuing robbery suspects.
O’Rourke said he, Cruz, and everyone gathered for the debate “mourn the passing of Officer Hull in Fort Worth.”
But he said that Cruz’s claim that he likened officers to modern day Jim Crows “is simply untrue.”
He said his uncle, who was a sheriff’s deputy in El Paso, taught him what it means to serve.
“With the tragic shooting death of Botham Jean, you have another black man killed in this country by law enforcement,” O’Rourke said. “No law enforcement wants that to happen. No member of this community wants that to happen.
“We have to find something better than what we’ve been doing so far,” he said. “Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together … for real, lasting, meaningful criminal reform.”
When asked whether police violence is a problem, Cruz went on to say that O’Rourke is making claims against police officers that aren’t true.
O’Rourke took offense at that, responding that “this is why people don’t like Washington, D.C.”
“You just said something I didn’t say,” O’Rourke said. “This is your trick … to confuse, incite based on fear and to not speak the truth.
“This is a very serious issue.”
Friday night was the first debate for Cruz and O’Rourke.
There are two other debates — Sept. 30 at the University of Houston and Oct. 16 in San Antonio.