Former FSU RB Warrick Dunn responds to shootings in native Baton Rouge

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Former Florida State running back Warrick Dunn was 18 years old when his mother, Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge, La., police officer was shot and killed in 1993 while working off duty.

Now, 23 years later, the three Baton Rouge officers were fatally shot and three others were wounded Sunday, less than two weeks after a black man was fatally shot by police. The gunman, a former Marine, was targeting officers, according to state police officials.

Dunn, 41, spent 12 seasons in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Atlanta and has received several awards for his charities and community involvement, including the Giant Steps Award in civic leadership from former President Bill Clinton for his Homes for the Holidays program that helps single-parent families reach home ownership.

Dunn, a native of Baton Rouge, made a heartfelt post on his Facebook page Sunday, citing his mother’s murder, speaking out on gun violence and the relationship between the black community and the police.

Dunn shared his experience, saying of the families, “it will change their lives and leave them all reeling with questions for years to come.” Dunn said this comes at a “terribly personal” time for him as this week he will attend a trial for the re-sentencing hearing for his mother’s murder.

Warrick Dunn at Florida State.

Warrick Dunn at Florida State.

“Even though my Mother lost her life all those years ago, the men who were tried by a jury of their peers have been kept alive by a prison system that has seen to their every need,” he wrote. “Something that was denied to my Mother.” He added that his mother was killed by a black man.

Dunn asks that people get involved by stressing “to our elected leaders to look at the issue of guns in our country with serious eyes.”

Dunn acknowledges that “there are officers who do not do the right thing,” but said that is true of every profession. He asks that laws are enforced and “when murder is a planned event – the rule of law should matter and loopholes or sophisticated lawyering have to stop.”

Finally, Dunn pleads for “the community to stop the violence, to cool down and to come together to figure this out. There is nothing we can’t do but we have to work together to make something positive come from yet another tragedy in my home town.”

Here is Dunn’s full post:

  “My heart breaks for the families of the law enforcement officers who have lost their loved ones. I have been in similar shoes – it will change their lives and leave them all reeling with questions for years to come. It is a shame – so many officers who are out there on the front lines have tremendous heart for what they do. These acts of violence don’t solve anything and if my voice can add to the movement to stop it – then I’d consider that a good thing. I struggle emotionally to understand why and how police officers are being targeted in the way they are.

    “The reality of our world is that there is a lot of unrest in our communities, particularly where police shootings are happening. Of course this takes me back to when my own black mother was ambushed and killed – by a black man. And all of this comes at a terribly personal time for me. This week, I will attend trial for a re-sentencing hearing for my mother’s murder – which happened 23 years ago. I hate to even think of what this entire ordeal will cost our community but I know – it is too much. And even though my Mother lost her life all those years ago, the men who were tried by a jury of their peers have been kept alive by a prison system that has seen to their every need. Something that was denied to my Mother.

    “We can’t just sit around and talk about how horrible all this is – we have to do something. And that means it ALWAYS starts with the individual.

    “One of the things I am doing is taking the role of fatherhood very seriously so I can raise a son who makes a positive contribution. I am striving to be there for him emotionally, physically and intellectually. I want to give him something I never had because statistics prove it makes a difference when a child has an active father in his or her life. And we have to do more to build empathy in children so they have a hard time treating one another badly. It all starts with kids so we have to do all we can to care about kids. Especially kids at risk for never learning how to socially and emotionally relate.

    “Another thing we can all do is stress to our elected leaders to look at the issue of guns in our country with serious eyes and intent instead of as a political stand-off. And then we have to give justice a chance to work. When people are intentional in the use of guns against others – we have to make sure the message that crime doesn’t pay – means something. Today I confess I wonder about that because from my view with my Mother’s trial, justice has failed our family – but I believe we can and must do better.

     “We also have to ensure that the laws on the books are enforced. Of course I know there are officers who do not do the right thing – that is true in every profession. But when murder is a planned event – the rule of law should matter and loopholes or sophisticated lawyering have to stop. Why have laws if we aren’t going to enforce them?

    “I feel close to this subject – it has touched me very personally. I speak for no one other than myself and I support law enforcement. I also support the community of Baton Rouge because they were there for me and my family. If I could have any effect, I’d ask the community to stop the violence, to cool down and to come together to figure this out. There is nothing we can’t do but we have to work together to make something positive come from yet another tragedy in my home town.”