National tragedies bring cops, community closer in Craig |

National tragedies bring cops, community closer in Craig

Recent shootings across nation — including murder of police — prompts gratefulness to cops

Patrick Kelly
Commander Bill Leonard stands with Craig Police Department Officer Jesse Kennell. The police department has had an many community members honor their work this week in light of the Dallas shooting.
Noelle Leavitt Riley

The deaths of fellow Americans in recent weeks has sent emotional shockwaves across the entire nation.

Even in Craig, far from the tragedies in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, law enforcement officers and the community are grieving the loss of life.

With all the stress associated with their daily work and tragic news out of Dallas, officers at Craig Police Department were happy to receive a gracious show of apperception from several members of the Craig community.

Since the shooting in Dallas, tokens of appreciation — including cookies, thank you notes and goody bags full of snacks — have been dropped off at the Moffat County Public Safety Center on five separate occasions.

Locals who wanted console local law enforcement for the loss of their five brothers and thank them for their services made the gestures.

“That sends a big message to our officers,” said Craig Police Department Cmdr. Bill Leonard. “That particular Friday was a difficult day for law enforcement.”

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said with all of the focus on negative interaction with law enforcement, it is good to have positive interaction with the community.

“We really appreciate the gestures,” he said.

Jessica Martin, who prepared goody bags with her kids Jonathan, 4, Madelyn, 2, and Allison, 1, said she wanted to teach her children to appreciate law enforcement.

“We really appreciate what they do for our community here,” she said. “There’s never been a time where I called and they haven’t helped — whether it be small or big.”

Martin said she definitely plans to continue thanking local police with similar gestures of gratitude.

Various shootings across the country, especially the one in Dallas, prompted the support.

On Friday mourners in Baton Rouge gathered for the funeral of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, the father of five who was shot and killed by police on July 5.

Graphic videos of Sterling’s fatal encounter with law enforcement made the rounds on social media, showing an officer shoving Sterling onto the hood of a car and then wrestling him to ground. The two officers, who were responding to a report of a man outside a convenience store with a gun, struggled with Sterling for a moment before at least one of them shoots him.

The day after Sterling was killed, Philando Castile, 32, was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Castile’s death was recorded by his girlfriend and livestreamed on Facebook. In the video, Castile’s girlfriend said that Castile had informed the officer that he was carrying a gun and that he was reaching for his license and registration when the officer began to shoot.

Both of the victims were black and all of the officers involved were white.

In reaction to the two deaths, protesters began gathering in cities across the nation.

On July 7, five Dallas police officers were killed after being ambushed by Micah Xavier Johnson, an African-American military veteran who specifically set out to target white police officers, during a peaceful protest.

Two civilians and seven police officers were wounded, as well.

Police used a robot to deliver an explosive device to Johnson’s vicinity and blew the gunman up. Upon searching Johnson’s residence, “detectives found bomb-making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics,” the Dallas Police Department disclosed in a statement.

Leonard said even though these events may have happened in different communities, they hit home across the board.

“If it involves the police and shooting situations it reflects back on all law enforcement,” Leonard said.

Leonard said in any profession there are individuals who may not be suited for the job and law enforcement is no exception. Unfortunately, those are the people responsible for the common public perception of law enforcement as bad.

When it comes to use of force, Leonard said officers are dealing with life-and-death situations where split second decisions must be made.

“So much is occurring when that situation comes up,” he said.

If you are pulled over with a firearm in your vehicle on your person, which is not at all unusual in Moffat County, Leonard said it is best to make the officer aware of the weapon and wait for instructions.

“Have both hands up where the officer can see them and just let the officer know,” he said.

Vanatta said sometimes using force is inevitable but is up to the officer to apply it responsibly and professionally.

“Sometimes there’s no option but to use force,” he said. “The degree of force normally is reactive to whatever force the other person is using against us.”

Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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