Community leaders speak out after arrest of Springfield Police officer
Several locals say watching this video of Solomon Smith, a black man with special needs, being taken down by Springfield Police officers is upsetting and heartbreaking.
Many say it feels like pulling a scab off an old wound.
“There have been things that have happened in the past. We're beginning to see those surface again because there is a history of hurt,” said LEAD Coalition of Bay County Executive Director Janice Lucas.
Lucas said even though Officer Ronnie Nelson was arrested, charged, and put on unpaid administrative leave Tuesday, the treatment of Solomon Smith or Sunny D, brings up a lot of bad memories of interactions with law enforcement for many in Springfield.
“Everybody knows, Sunny. He walks up and down the streets and he doesn’t bother anybody, and that is why this touched the hearts of a lot of people in this community,” said Lucas.
Some say the fact that Springfield Police officers launched an internal review without any prior complaints from the family and are allowing the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to conduct the police investigation is a sign of progress.
“They’ve shown us the process can work, so we have to continue to trust them and trust the process,” said Northwest Florida Minority Business Chamber of Commerce Tony Bostick. ”When they give us a reason not to trust, and then we take it to a different level.”
Lucas said Smith met with law enforcement after the press conference Tuesday, and officers gave him hugs and apologized to him.
Smith expressed that he was looking for a job and Lucas said she reached out to a local business to help him secure an interview.
“It’s a bad situation. It shouldn’t have happened. It did happen and now we,’re trying to work together as a community to make the best come out of this as we can,” said Lucas.