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Racist attitudes emerge after tragic death in Marshalltown

In this file photo, Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper speaks to Black Lives Matter advocates at a busy intersection in Marshalltown on June 1, 2020. In an op-ed piece released Wednesday, Tupper said racist attitudes have surfaced on social media platforms following a fatal shooting in Marshalltown this week. Tupper said “keyboard warriors” have focused on the suspect’s Hispanic ethnicity and immigration status rather than the heinous act he allegedly committed when he shot and killed a Casey’s employee early Monday morning.

Marshalltown absorbed another horrible blow this week. The shooting death of Michael West is a senseless tragedy. The randomness of this crime is difficult to comprehend. Marshalltown is, at the end of the day, a small town. When things like this happen, they happen to all of us. We are all shocked and horrified. It is important to keep the victim in mind. Marshalltown always rises to the occasion when tragedy strikes. Marshalltown will support this victim and all those affected by this violent crime.

I am on the wrong side of age 50. I still get my news from local sources; newspapers, radio and local TV. I hate to admit this, but I fully understand the power of social media. I realize people go to social media for information. Sometimes you can find good information on social media. However, it is equally likely you will find bad information. I have noticed a lot of negative social media chatter about the suspect involved in this case. I suppose that is to be expected. Especially considering the violent nature of these allegations. The odd thing for me is the chatter primarily focuses on the suspect’s demographics and background information. I find it disturbing that when we arrest a white male for a violent crime, nobody is asking about demographics then. In fact, it is common for people to come to the defense of the accused and talk about what a good person he is and how we should show more respect for the family. In this case, some keyboard warriors are just talking about the demographics of the suspect and are rushing to conclusions about immigration status. They are attacking the suspect and his family background. Why? Is it because the suspect looks different? Is it because he has a vowel at the end of his name? Is it because of racist attitudes? I will not bother debating the answers to these questions because I do not have time for ignorance right now. I do not have time to feed the trolls.

The police department is focusing on the suspect’s actions and behavior. We are focusing on evidence and actual information. We are seeking relevant information about what happened so we can find the truth behind all of this. We are devoting our time to the investigation of a real crime, not a perceived crime involving immigration status. For the record, immigration status is not a relevant factor in this case. The suspect is not accused of immigration status violations. If you have jumped to this conclusion, ask yourself why.

The social media chatter is just wasted time and energy. I will expend my energy on supporting the family of Michael West. I will be investing time in showing compassion for everyone affected by this horrible crime. Michael West had a real family that loves him. He had friends and co-workers who are all suffering a horrible loss. They need our support. By the way, the person accused of this crime has a presumption of innocence. This is a right guaranteed to him by the law of the land. He also has family and friends affected by this tragedy. They deserve a measure of empathy and respect as well. They do not deserve an unwarranted attack by the trolls.

I love Marshalltown for many reasons. At the top of this list are the people. We are a diverse community. We look like the rest of the world and this is something I celebrate. We have a diverse culture. We have diverse languages. We have diverse ideas. We have one big thing in common though, community. We want the same things. We all want safe neighborhoods, quality education for our children and the ability to support our families. We always come together during times of crisis. We will come together again to support a grieving family. We will support Michael’s friends. We will support his work family. We will support each other. Try not to be pulled into the filth that is the social media gutter. Ignore the trolls with their fake names and fake accounts. Most of them do not call Marshalltown home anyway. They are looking for your reactions so they can push their ignorance and hate. Ignore them. Michael West deserves to be our collective focus of time and energy.

Contact Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper at mtupper@marshalltown-ia.gov or 641-754-5771.

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