POLITICS

Julián Castro Says Tackling Gun Violence Must Include Police Brutality

He was the first candidate at this week's Democratic debate to bring up Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman killed in her own home by a white police officer.

Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro said Tuesday that the conversation about tackling gun violence should include addressing violence by police, specifically against people of color.

Castro brought up the importance of racial and economic justice when asked at the Democratic presidential debate about mandatory and voluntary gun buybacks. Some candidates support such programs to address gun violence in the U.S. 

“There are two problems I have with mandatory buybacks,” Castro said. “Number one, folks can’t define it, and if you’re not going door-to-door then it’s not really mandatory. But also, in the places that I grew up in, we weren’t exactly looking for another reason for cops to come banging on the door.”

The former mayor of San Antonio said it was not uncommon to hear gunshots in his neighborhood while growing up in the city. 

Castro was the first candidate to bring up Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot over the weekend by Aaron Dean, a white police officer. Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew in her Fort Worth, Texas, home when officers arrived at the property for a welfare check. A neighbor had called a nonemergency police number after noticing the house’s doors were open. 

Dean did not knock on Jefferson’s door or identify himself before shooting his gun. He resigned before the police department could fire him. He was arrested Monday on murder charges, and was released that night after posting bond. Police investigations into Dean are ongoing, and Jefferson’s family has called for a third-party investigation.

“I am not going to give these police officers another reason to go door-to-door in certain communities,” Castro said Tuesday. “Because police violence is also gun violence, and we need to address that.”

Castro is one of the only candidates whose plans to address gun violence also include addressing police brutality, and he has said previously that the country’s policing system is more than just “a few bad apples.” His “People First” policing plan released earlier this summer lays out proposals to end hyperaggressive policing, hold officers accountable for their actions against communities and bridge the divide between law enforcement and communities of color.

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