Most Americans can look at yesterday’s killing of police officers in Baton Rouge and feel a combination of shock, sadness or anger.
But for former NFL running back and current Falcons minority owner Warrick Dunn, the news brings a different kind of emotion.
Dunn’s mother Betty Smothers was a Baton Rouge police officer, and she was shot and killed when he was a senior in high school, so to say recent events hit close to home for him is an understatement.
“My heart breaks for the families and law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge who have lost loved ones,” Dunn said in a statement to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I have been in similar shoes — it will change their lives and leave them 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.”
Baton Rouge has been tense since the killing of Alton Sterling at the hands of two white police officers earlier this month, and yesterday’s killing of three police officers will only add to that.
And because of his personal background, Dunn wants to do something, anything to help.
After his mother was killed when he was 18, he went on to a long and distinguished NFL career, but has become more distinguished (or should be) for what he’s done off the field. Working through his charitable foundation, Dunn has helped provide homes to more than 140 single mothers.
And his mother’s killing has also become an open wound, as her killer who sits on Louisiana’s death row is scheduled to be re-sentenced soon. But Dunn’s also pleading for common ground in Baton Rouge, knowing his community is being torn apart.
“I support law enforcement,” Dunn said. “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 hometown.”
If Dunn can use his background and his story to bring any measure of peace, it will be his greatest achievement to date.