An officer from our local school police force shot and killed a man near a school this morning in what the Beaumont Independent School District calls “self-defense.”
Police Sgt. Don Gordon was on what was characterized as a “routine check” near the Paul Brown and Pathway schools when he ran into a disturbance, said a Beaumont ISD press release. The shooting happened off the campus near the intersection of Pope and St. Helena streets
A “black male” allegedly attacked Gordon as the officer prepared to investigate the fracas. The police officer “had no recourse but to pull his weapon and defend himself,” BISD police chief Clydell Duncan said in the press release. The 26-year-old who was fatally wounded in the shooting was identified as Matthew Beckett of Beaumont, according to the Beaumont Enterprise.
The officer supposedly used pepper spray on Beckett before shooting him, according to KBTV-TV. The news station quoted school district spokeswoman Jessie Haynes as saying Beckett appeared to be high on drugs. No other reports have surfaced this afternoon concerning whether Beckett pulled a weapon on Gordon, prompting the officer to use deadly force.
This is the first fatal shooting for the department, which began patrolling schools and areas near the schools two years ago. The agency has more than 20 officers.
Beaumont ISD has seemed to be continually in the media spotlight, or crosshairs, depending on how one see it during the past several years. The school district has an enrollment of more than 19,000. The district pays its superintendent, Dr. Carrol Thomas, more than $320,000 per year, which makes him one of the best paid school administrators in Texas if not the most well-paid.
Thomas and his advocacy of a multi-million dollar bond issue have been lightning-rods for criticism during the past year or two. Usually, discussions in online comment sites about Thomas and the district end up with the subject of race. Thomas is black as is four of seven school board members. Some would say that shouldn’t come as a big shock since the population of Beaumont is 47.2 percent black compared to a 44.1 percent white make-up, according to Census figures.
One may only expect this shooting, regardless of what the facts from the investigation bring, will stir the BISD controversy pot even more. One also might hope for race not to inflame this latest incident since both the police officer involved as well as the victim are both black. But one shouldn’t hold their breath. This is Beaumont where everything seems racial these days.