Supporters of Tymar Crawford Address City Officials
By C. Scott Satterwhite
After a somewhat contentious city council meeting earlier last week, several community members came together again to speak Thursday, Aug. 8, at the council’s Leroy Boyd Forum.
Speaker after speaker addressed the city council and Mayor Grover Robinson about the recent shooting death of Tymar Crawford by an officer in the Pensacola Police Department.
The shooting took place on July 5 as Crawford was returning from a funeral. After the shooting, Pensacola Police spokesperson Mike Wood stated that police pulled Crawford over as he approached his home on the corner of C and Brainerd streets after smelling marijuana and seeing narcotics thrown into the street. According to the spokesperson, Crawford resisted arrest, attempting to disarm the officer. Crawford was then shot to death by another officer at the scene.
Kimberly Henderson, Crawford’s partner, contradicts the police account, stating that she witnessed an officer punching Crawford. As Crawford attempted to get to the ground, an officer shot him six times.
The case is still under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which Pensacola Police Chief Tommi Lyter expects to conclude by Monday, Aug. 19. Following the investigation, the State Attorney’s Office will decide if the officer’s shooting was legally justified.
Since Crawford’s death, family and community members have organized several memorials in his honor and protests seeking answers. The most recent took place on July 26, when over 100 people filled the Fricker Community Center for a “People’s Assembly,” organized by the Pensacola chapter of the civil rights organization Dream Defenders.
Organizers with Dream Defenders met with Crawford’s family to compile a list of demands. Those demands were first and center in the conversation at the Leroy Boyd Forum, including the release of the involved officers’ names, establishment of a civilian oversight committee and quarterly anti-bias training.
Jamal Davis of Dream Defenders was one of the first to speak at the forum.
“We want to be clear that we want these quarterly training programs to be required for all officers, every quarter, no exceptions,” said Davis.
“The city may think that some of these demands are outside of the purview of their office or outside of their capabilities to deliver,” said Davis. “However, city officials serve at our discretion. We elect you into office, and we pay your salaries with our tax dollars. You are here as public servants, and we are here as members of the public making very clear what our community needs.”
Davis added that much of the money spent on policing could be spent on “quality mental health care, affordable housing, community programs, education and more” instead.
“Unlike over-policing, these are things that will truly help create a safer place for us all,” he said.
Several other speakers addressed Crawford’s death and their negative interactions with police.
“We shouldn’t have to fear going out of our front door and fear public servants that we put in place every time we go out,” said Roy Foust.
Several other speakers offered similar sentiments.
Willie Williams, a pastor with Top of the Bottom Ministry, looked at the audience and encouraged them to continue with their work as he spoke of his own negative interactions with the police.
“You are speaking for your grandkids, your great-grandkids,” Williams said, his voice strained at times.
He then addressed the city council and mayor directly.
“I’m speaking out today from my heart. It’s on you. You’ve heard their cry. It’s in their mind and their spirit,” Williams said.
Haley Morrissette of the Dream Defenders was one of the last to speak at the first forum. She spoke specifically about the establishment of a civilian oversight committee.
“We want to be fully a part of that,” said Morrissette. “We don’t want any type of meetings going on where this civilian oversight committee can be put together in some easy way that it can be taken back apart or dismantled.”
“We need to have the support of those who sit on the city council,” said Morrissette. “We ask that y’all possibly even reach out to us to ask how we can get this established so that it’s accessible for all.”
“We want to work together. We want to bridge a gap,” she said, but reiterated that she was serious that the demands presented by Dream Defenders and Crawford’s family be met. Otherwise, Morrissette said, the city should expect more protests.
“Somebody died. It was someone who lived around the corner from where I live. We want change,” said Morrissette.
At the close of the first part of the Leroy Boyd Forum, Mayor Robinson addressed the supporters of Crawford in attendance.
“We do want justice, but justice doesn’t come with agendas. Justice comes with justice,” said Robinson.
“There was nobody here for Elizabeth Harris. She was gunned down in the city of Pensacola, and that was unfortunate,” the mayor remarked.
Harris was killed in an unrelated drive-by shooting in May.
Morrissette disagreed with the Mayor.
“I’m pretty sure I said something about that,” she said as she spoke to Robinson and looked back at the crowd.
Several of the speakers, including former mayoral candidate Jonathan Green, took issue with that comparison during the second part of the forum.
Speaking to the audience, Mayor Robinson said he intended to meet with Morrissette and Crawford’s supporters the following morning.
On Friday, Aug. 9, supporters of Crawford, including Dream Defender leaders, met with Mayor Robinson. After a three-hour meeting, Morrissette indicated some progress toward at least one of the demands.
“We’re expecting the establishment of the civilian oversight committee to be introduced to the city council by the October meeting,” said Morrissette.