“Rolling Up on Dixon Circle”

The Dallas Morning News  
August 09, 2016 

On July 24, 2012, Dallas police officers raided a home used to resupply drug dealers in the low-income, predominantly black Dixon Circle neighborhood in South Dallas. James Harper was one of four men who fled the house when police entered. Officer Brian Rowden gave chase.

The pursuit ended in the two men tussling at the edge of the neighborhood before Rowden shot and killed Harper, igniting racial tensions that culminated that evening in a standoff between hundreds of citizens, some armed, and police with riot shields and rifles.

In the wake of the near-riot, police promised to rebuild trust in the neighborhood. Chief David Brown promised Dixon Circle a special team of community officers and more outreach. The residents of the neighborhood say the efforts did not last long.

Four years later, after a gunman ambushed and killed five police officers at a downtown rally, Dallas Morning News writers Avi Selk and Julieta Chiquillo returned to Dixon Circle to see what became of the anger from that 2012 summer night.

Selk and Chiquillo seamlessly weaved the narrative of Dixon through the neighborhood’s distinct voices: a reverend and his brother fighting to hold together a community; a gang-member-turned-rapper giving a voice to the area where he grew up; longtime residents living among gangs and drugs; a corner store owner witnessing shootings in his parking lot; and police officers trying to make a difference.

Through dozens of interviews, police reports and official records, Selk and Chiquillo found that there was still an open wound in the neighborhood. Police would make routine patrols or respond to 911 calls, but the Dixon Circle residents distrusted law enforcement.

Amid that distrust, though, the reporters captured signs of hope in a conversation between the gang-member-turned-rapper, Bryson Busby and Dallas police Sgt. Sheldon Smith. Busby, who has no qualms about being seen talking to the police, knows he is an example of someone who wants better for himself and his community.

“Rolling up on Dixon Circle” took an alternative approach to telling the story of a community. It gave voice to the residents that make up the neighborhood and used striking photography and video to capture what it’s like to walk its streets and navigate its perils.

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Submitted by Keith Campbell.

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