September 5, 2007
Some 40 community members gathered at the steps of the Pettis County Courthouse on Wednesday evening for a candlelight vigil in memory of a man killed in a police shooting. Participants in the vigil expressed hope that the community could “heal and come together” and dissatisfaction with the city’s response to the shooting.
David Morgan was shot and killed by John Cook, a Sedalia police officer, on June 30 after the police were called to a domestic disturbance at 720 N. Lamine Ave. A highway patrol investigation of the shooting cleared Cook of any wrongdoing, and he has since been reinstated on the police force. A committee formed in the wake of the shooting to review the city’s use of force policy made five recommendations, mostly involving the formal adoption of existing police procedures.
Rhonda Chalfant and Steve Boggs, both NAACP board members, were part of the policy review committee and helped organize Wednesday’s vigil. They were quick to point out that the gathering was not sanctioned by the NAACP.
“This is a gathering of concerned people from all different parts of the community who want to work to make sure that this sort of thing never happens again,” Boggs said before the vigil.
Both expressed dissatisfaction with the committee and the highway patrol investigation.
“There is not a problem with the policy. There is not a problem with the training,” Chalfant said. “But there is a disconnect between the policy and the training and how the policy is implemented by officers on the street.”
Boggs went on to call the committee a “waste of time,” and believes that there should be more effort to educate the public on police training and procedures. Both also said that not being able to discuss the specifics of Morgan’s shooting made it difficult to address their concerns.
“It was not what I thought it was going to be. I think it was just a gesture to make it appear that something was being done,” Boggs said.
Chalfant added that the highway patrol investigation was flawed because “it was more an investigation of an assault on an officer, and that altered the perspective of the investigation.”
Morgan’s brother, Harold, of Warrensburg, attended the vigil with other family members. He expressed gratitude to those in attendance for keeping his brother’s memory alive. He said the family was not satisfied with city efforts to address the shooting, and believes they should have been included in discussions.
“We are coping. What choice do we have? We just want to know what really happened and why, but they don’t talk to us. At the very least they could have brought us in and talked to us,” Harold said.
He also said he did not understand why Cook would have responded to a domestic violence call by himself.
“That’s a bad situation. Why wouldn’t he have some backup? If he felt threatened, he could have used mace or just backed away and called for some help. There is no reason why this should have happened,” Harold said.
Larry Newbill, a city firefighter and a neighbor of the home where Morgan was shot, said he had concerns about the thoroughness of the investigation.
“We live right around the corner, but no one ever came to talk to us and ask us if we saw anything or heard anything. I know John (Cook), and I knew Morgan. I don’t believe Cook would murder nobody, but at the same time I don’t think David was going to hurt anybody. I think it was just a terrible accident, but no one will say that,” Newbill said.
Lauretta Emerson, a councilwoman representing Ward 2, addressed the crowd at the vigil.
“We are being tested. There is a time to get it right, and that time is now,” Emerson said.