Race and equity were at the heart of a discussion among Bibb County leaders Monday, 10 days after a 57-year-old man was shot and killed during a confrontation with a sheriff’s deputy.
Larry Daniel Matthews was fatally shot Oct. 7 during a confrontation with a deputy in south Macon. The GBI is investigating the case. At a subsequent vigil for Matthews, some people maintained that the shooting should be investigated as a civil rights case.
On Monday, Sheriff David Davis said the key to mending any racial tensions between the community and law enforcement is to have relationships and “keep those lines of communication open. ... Be willing to go out and deal with concerns of the neighborhoods.”
The discussion was a part of a three-day, statewide meeting by Georgia Legal Services, a nonprofit that helps provide lawyers for people who are unable to afford one. Others on the panel included pastors, school leaders and the Macon-Bibb County NAACP president.
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“Everyone has a chance to voice their concerns and voice their views on something, but we let the facts work themselves out,” Davis said.
District Attorney David Cooke said there are people “trying to frame this” as “whatever they feel would help them politically or help their organization.”
“I just ask that you let the facts in those cases come out,” Cooke said. “When one of these cases happens, as soon as they do, there are people in good conscience who want the right thing to happen. … But, you know folks, there’s people out there whose intentions are not pure, no matter what the issue is, no matter which side of the aisle they’re on.”
Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Al Tillman encouraged people to “make a friend before you need a friend.”
Tillman said his father was fatally shot by police, “but it does not stop me and it did not stop me from building relationships.”
“Part of race relations is we all need each other. At some point we have to discover that,” Tillman said.
One thing that Tillman said does bother him is white people who profess admiration for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., but “they never show up at the march every year and celebrate.”
The NAACP was created by both black and white people, Tillman said.
“It’s all in our minds, it’s all in our attitudes, and that’s what race is,” Tillman said. “It’s about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to change it.”