Lynchburg Officials Try and Mend Relationship Between Police and Community
Lynchburg, VA - Members of Lynchburg's White Rock neighborhood left their homes Thursday night and took to the streets to voice their anger towards the Lynchburg Police Department.
A large group marched from the White Rock Market to the intersection of Tulip and Poplar Streets. That's the spot where police say 29 year old Levon DeShawn Martin collapsed during an arrest Tuesday night.
Martin, a father of four, was not the man officers were looking for. State police are now investigating exactly how the events of Tuesday night unfolded.
The march culminated in a prayer for peace, "Help us to love together, live together, work together, be more like family to each other each and every day" said the man leading the prayer.
Some who watched Martin taken away in an ambulance Tuesday night claim he was not given proper medical attention in time. Now, city officials are speaking out on what they feel needs to change for this neighborhood to heal and this city to move forward.
City Councilman and Lynchburg's Vice Mayor, Ceasor Johnson says it'll all start with a simple discussion.
Even in the rain, Johnson walks from house to house, to drive home, a powerful message.
"We've got to keep everything going in the right direction and we've got to move forward so that this never happens to nobody else's brother, because you're going to have to bury your brother this week" he said.
He's here to help the healing for his constituents in the White Rock neighborhood that lost 29 year old Shawn Martin.
"The very first thing we need to understand is what happened that night, and why did a young man run out of here, walk up the hill with police, collapse, and die the next day?" said Johnson.
Many in the tight knit neighborhood of White Rock are blaming Martin's death on police.
They need to be brought back down to the law because they're not above the law just because they got a badge, they just like us too" said Jermel Davis, a close friend of Martin.
"This is just one more log on the fire" said Johnson.
He says the trust is paper thin between this community and the city's police force.
"You get a sense of it's them, and you don't have their own person who can represent you. The police need to be in the community not just when they're serving warrants, but on good days" he said.
Johnson says once the police can be seen as friends and not foes, the clouds will clear, and the rain will be replaced with a rainbow.
"If they can be a part of it, then they can see the openness and hear the dialogue and know that their voice is being heard" said Johnson.
City Manager Kim Payne said the next step is trying to develop a dialogue between the community and the police department. How he says the city goes about doing that is yet to be determined.
Meantime, all involved are awaiting the results of an autopsy on Martin's body, and the findings from state police.