Trauma surgeon who treated Dallas officers: ‘This killing, it has to stop’

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

A black trauma surgeon who treated some of the Dallas police officers shot last week says he is struggling to come to terms with the killings as a member of the African-American community.

“I understand the anger and frustration and distrust of law enforcement, but they are not the problem,” Dr. Brian H. Williams said Monday during an emotional press conference at Parkland Memorial Hospital. “The problem is the lack of open discussions about the impact of race relations in this country. And I think about it every day — that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night.”

Five police officers died and 11 others — including nine officers — were wounded Thursday night in downtown Dallas by a lone gunman during a protest over recent fatal shootings of African-American men.

“This killing,” Williams said, “it has to stop. Black men dying, being forgotten. People retaliating against people that are sworn to defend us. We have to come together and end all this.”

Williams, a former U.S. Air Force engineer, said last week’s police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota deeply affected him.

“I think the reasons are obvious,” Williams said. “I fit that demographic of individuals. But I abhor what is being done to these officers, and I grieve with their families.”

Still, Williams said, he’s conflicted.

“It’s much more complicated for me because it’s not just about that one night, it’s about the racial undertones that affect and impact all of this,” he said. “So it began for me much longer before those cops came through the door that evening. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that.”

Dr. Alex Eastman, the medical director of Parkland’s trauma unit, said the shootings “rocked some guys to their core that I thought were unshakable.”

Williams, who was on ER duty Thursday night, said he is one of them.

“Right now it certainly is a struggle,” he said. “There’s a dichotomy where I stand with law enforcement but I also personally feel and understand that angst that comes when you cross the paths of an officer in uniform and you’re fearing for your safety. I’ve been there and understand that. But for me that does not condone disrespecting or killing police officers. It’s something I’m dealing with constantly. And I truly don’t know what I’m going to do next.”

The 47-year-old surgeon said he has tried to prevent his daughter from harboring the same feelings about law enforcement by doing “simple things” like picking up their tabs at restaurants and buying police officers ice cream in front of her.

“I want my daughter seeing me interacting with police that way so that she doesn’t grow up with the same burden that I carry,” Williams said. “And I want Dallas PD to see me, a black man, and understand that I support you, I will defend you and I will care for you.”

He added: “That does not mean that I do not fear you. That doesn’t mean, if you approach me, I will not immediately have a visceral reaction and start worrying for my personal safety. But I’ll control that the best I can.”