(DALLAS NEWS) — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has lashed out at his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, for agreeing that the Dallas police officer who shot an unarmed black man in his own apartment should be fired.
“I wish Beto O’Rourke and Democrats weren’t so quick to always blame the police officer,” Cruz said this weekend in an interview with KRIV-TV in Houston.
Cruz said that Botham Jean’s killing is a “tragic situation where everyone is horrified by what happened.” But he cautioned against jumping to conclusions, saying that the shooting may have been a “horrifying and horrific misunderstanding or it may be something else.”
“It may well be that two lives were destroyed that night,” the Republican said on Saturday.
His comments came after O’Rourke focused on the killing at a rally Friday at the Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas.
Jean was shot in his own apartment on the night of Sept. 6 by Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger, who told authorities that she had parked on the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment as her own. Guyger was charged with manslaughter and put on paid administrative leave.
The killing has sparked national outrage, particularly since many key details remain unknown or in dispute.
Asked by KDFW-TV (Channel 4) after his rally in Dallas on Friday if Guyger should be fired, O’Rourke told the news outlet: “I don’t understand, given the actions, how anyone can come to any other conclusion.”
An O’Rourke spokesman confirmed the quote, but said that the El Paso Democrat also said there should be a full investigation and accountability for what occurred.
The Senate hopeful also spoke at length about Jean at the rally, wondering how it can be “in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African-American, in his own apartment, is shot and killed by police officer.”
O’Rourke, in particular, criticized the police’s decision on the day of Jean’s funeral to release information from a search warrant that showed marijuana was found in Jean’s apartment.
“That is not justice,” he said, referring to unarmed black residents being shot by white police officers. “That is not us. That can and must change.”
Cruz, in his interview with KRIV, stressed that the fatal shooting was “horrific and a nightmare.” But he said it’s important to remember that “we have a legal justice system to actually learn what the facts are, learn what happened.”
“She may have been in the wrong,” the senator said, referring to Guyger. “She’s facing legal proceedings, and if a jury of her peers concludes that she behaved wrongly, then she’ll face the consequences.”
Police shootings had already been a flash point in the campaign between Cruz and O’Rourke, thanks to the debate over NFL players protesting during the national anthem.
O’Rourke’s defense of those players kneeling to object to police brutality went viral online after he said at a town hall event that “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place.”
Cruz, in turn, has blistered O’Rourke for taking that stance.
He’s said that “protesting the national anthem and the flag, protesting law enforcement … is inconsistent with where most Texans are.” He also launched an advertising campaign that features a retired Marine sergeant who lost both legs in the Vietnam War.
Asked just after the Jean killing if the shooting changed his mind on the anthem protests, Cruz demurred.
“I expect that the legal system and law enforcement specifically will examine what happened and how everyone behaved,” he said earlier this month. “But that doesn’t for a moment condone protesters disrespecting the American flag, disrespecting our national anthem.”