Few people understand loss better than David Brown, the Dallas police chief who stood before television cameras Friday morning and said, “We are heartbroken.”
Even before five police officers were killed Thursday at the site of a Black Lives Matter protest where seven other people were wounded, Brown had become all-too familiar with grief, pummeled by it again and again in his career and personal life.
Before this week, violence had already taken from him a former partner, a brother, a son.
“There are some people who would just shut down, and they would have others conducting the interviews,” said Keith Humphrey, the police chief of Norman, Okla. “But that is not David. He realized the community wants to hear from him. The nation wants to hear from him.”
It wasn’t the first time Humphrey, who was once the police chief in Lancaster, a suburb of Dallas, had seen Brown step up under painful circumstances. In June 2010, Brown was only seven weeks into his new position as chief when the son who bore his name killed a Lancaster police officer and another man before being fatally shot more than a dozen times.
It was Father’s Day, Humphrey recalled.
But even as Brown mourned his 27-year-old son, a young man who struggled with mental illness, Brown asked Humphrey for help. He asked if he could reach out to his son’s victims and arrange a meeting. On the two consecutive evenings Brown walked into their homes, Humphrey recalled, he did so not as a police chief but as a father who was hurting, too.
“He approached those families as David Brown, the father of a young man that caused so much hurt in both of these families lives,” he said. After Humphrey made the introductions and hugs were exchanged, Humphrey walked outside to give the families and Brown privacy. “As I was walking out the door, I heard David say, ‘First of all, I’m sorry,’ and ‘My son was not raised this way.’ ”
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