HEARNE (May 8, 2014) The New Black Panther Party led a protest march Thursday in Hearne; three days after a white police officer shot and killed an elderly black woman who authorities say was brandishing a gun.
The protesters chanted, "What do we want? Justice!" as they marched two blocks from the Brookshire Brothers parking lot to the Hearne Police Department.
Police responded to a 911 call at around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday about a woman with a gun outside a home on Pin Oak Street.
When Officer Stephen Stem arrived, he asked Pearlie Golden, 93, to “put down the weapon and then ultimately fir(ed) his own sidearm, wounding Miss Golden,” according to a statement authorities released the day after the shooting.
Witnesses told KBTX-TV in Bryan they heard at least five shots.
Golden was pronounced dead at St Joseph's Hospital in Bryan before 10:00 p.m. Tuesday.
Stem was placed on administrative leave after the shooting.
Quannell X, the leader of the New Black Panther Party's Houston chapter, says a protest will be staged in front of Stem's house if Hearne city officials do not fire him.
The Hearne City Council scheduled a special meeting Saturday to discuss Stem's future.
Hearne Mayor Ruben Gomez told KBTX he will recommend that the city terminate Stem.
"Give (council members) a chance to do what's right right," Quanell X told the crowd gathered Thursday outside the police department.
The calls for justice in the controversial shooting are also creating controversy because the investigation is not complete and because of the group leading those calls.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, and several other organizations, consider the New Black Panther Party to be a hate group.
Hearne remains haunted by a moment in history they wish they could forget. In 2000, a drug task force raided an apartment complex in town where over two dozen African-Americans were arrested on drug charges.
However, charges against 17 arrested were dropped due to insufficient evidence. An ACLU lawsuit charging the Robertson County DA’s office with racial discrimination was then filed in 2002.
A settlement was won with the help of former Baylor Law professor Mark Osler who took on the case pro bono.
"We didn't expect to find the type of racism that we found in that particular case to be quite honest," Osler said Thursday.
“African-Americans in that community felt that the law enforcement there was unfair to them, that they were being framed at times, that charges were exaggerated, and were being targeted in ways that Caucasians weren't.”
Osler said the damage to the Hearne community may have already been done, even if Golden’s shooting turns out to be justified.
"Hearne has been a place of racial trouble in the past, and even justified police actions that have a racial component are often the flash point for real conflict," he said.
"I hoped that the case we worked on for example would have been a step forward towards racial reconciliation...it appears there's been a step backwards now."